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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama’s visit spurs controversy

December 16, 2007

New Europe, Belgium
15 December 2007 - Issue : 760

Meeting on December 13 with Italian lawmakers in Italy, the Dalai Lama
showed thanks for their support of religious freedom and autonomous rule
in Tibet. His visit to the European country has been criticised by
China. The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader had been invited by Italy’s
lower house of Parliament Chamber of Deputies speaker Fausto Bertinotti
to address the lawmakers at the Montecitorio Parliament building in Rome.

In what has been widely seen as a compromise move to avoid angering
Beijing, the Dalai Lama spoke to the lawmakers not in the main assembly
hall, but in a side room. The lawmakers - most of them members of the
280 member bipartisan “For Tibet” group - Bertinotti and Italy’s Foreign
Affairs Undersecretary, Gianni Vernetti, the most senior government
official present, warmly applauded the Dalai Lama.

Reiterating that he is not advocating secession for Tibet, which has
been occupied by China since 1951, the Dalai Lama said his was a
campaign for the Himalayan region’s autonomy and religious freedom for
its people. “We follow the two handed approach. Our right hand always
reaches out to the Chinese government asking them to recognise minority
rights. Our left hand ask(s) supporters, in Italy and elsewhere in the
world to help us,” the Dalai Lama said.

“Once China grants us our rights, then we will use our left hand to
thank our international supporters and wave goodbye,” he added. Tracing
the recent history of negotiations with China’s Communist government,
the Dalai Lama said that five meetings held since 2001 had made “great
progress.” However, a sixth meeting held in June-July had witnessed a
hardening of China’s attitude with Beijing officials subsequently
claiming: “There is no Tibetan issue,” the Dalai Lama said. Foreign
Affairs Undersecretary Vernetti, speaking to reporters after the Dalai
Lama’s speech, said he had met the Buddhist leader on behalf of Prime
Minister Romano Prodi’s government. “I was again struck by the great
balance and moderation of the Dalai Lama’s attitude towards China,”
Vernetti said. “He again said he is not seeking full independence for
Tibet but greater autonomy achieved through open dialogue,” said
Vernetti, adding that the Dalai Lama could count on Italy’s support.
Earlier on December 13, the Dalai Lama addressed a summit of Nobel Peace
Prize winners organised by Rome’s city hall and a foundation headed by
former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. In his address as in the one
with the lawmakers the Dalai Lama stressed the need for “human
compassion.” “Things will not change with just a few nice words,” the
1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner said. “But things to change depend on our
action.”

Earlier on December 13, China condemned the Dalai Lama’s visit to Italy,
with foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang saying at a routine press
briefing that the Buddhist leader “is a political exile who under the
cover of religion who has long been engaged in activities aimed at
splitting the motherland and national unity.”

China has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama - who lives in exile in
India - of treason and Beijing’s consul-general in Milan previously
criticised the city’s mayor Letizia Moratti for meeting the Tibetan
spiritual leader.
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