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Dalai Lama says China hardening its stance on Tibet

December 14, 2007

ROME December 13, 2007 (AP) - Chinese authorities are taking an
increasing harsh stance on Tibet, pushing Tibetans to seek greater
support abroad, the Dalai Lama said Thursday during a visit to Italy.

Addressing lawmakers in the lower chamber of Parliament, the exiled
spiritual leader said Tibet was not seeking independence from China but
only wished to preserve its culture.

He said that, despite progress since 2001, Chinese officials in recent
talks have «intensified the accusation» of separatism and claimed «there
is no Tibetan issue.

«Our right hand has always reached out to the Chinese government,» the
Dalai Lama said. «That hand has always remained empty, so with our left
hand we appeal to you: help us.

The spiritual leader was at the end of a 10-day visit to Italy that,
like most of his recent international trips, has drawn criticism from China.

«The Dalai is not a pure religious figure but a political exile under
the cover of religion who has long been engaged in activities aimed at
splitting the motherland and national unity,» Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman Qin Gang told reporters earlier. «Therefore, we are opposed to
any country in any form supporting or sympathizing with the Dalai's
activities.

The Dalai Lama's recent meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and U.S. President George W. Bush drew similar rebukes from Beijing. The
Dalai Lama insists he only seeks autonomy for Tibet, which China has
ruled since 1951.

The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, stopped in Rome
for an annual summit of peace laureates organized by a foundation headed
by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

No meetings were arranged with top Italian government officials. The
Dalai Lama was received at the Chamber of Deputies by the house's
speaker, Fausto Bertinotti, and he met later with Senate Speaker Franco
Marini.

The meeting at the lower house took place in a side hall even though
some lawmakers had petitioned Bertinotti to allow the Dalai Lama to
address the entire assembly.

Nor were there plans by the Vatican for a papal audience despite earlier
reports there would be one. The Dalai Lama met with Pope Benedict XVI
last year, but his current visit comes as the Vatican has stepped up
efforts to improve relations with China, and an audience would have
angered Beijing.
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