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Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday urged Americans to visit his homeland to disprove China’s assertion that people are happy there.
Speaking in Manhattan, the Tibetan Buddhist, who fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, said Beijing insists, “Tibetans are very happy.”
“The Chinese government never admit, never acknowledged there is a problem,” he said. “So now I think the world community has a responsibility to show the world there is a problem.
“If the majority of Tibetan people are happy, then our information becomes wrong, then … we must apologize to the Chinese government,” the Dalai Lama said to laughs from the audience of 1,500 people.
Noting China cast itself as a liberator of Tibet rather than as a colonialist, he said, “A liberator should not bring more misery.
“So please, you, non-Tibetans, go there … and then you must show it to the world,” he said, “I urge you, please go there.”
On April 23, China urged the United States not to let the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing brands a separatist, visit the country. “We oppose the Dalai Lama going to any country to engage in splittist activities under any pretext,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
The Dalai Lama’s Sunday event was a conversation with former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Robinson, also a former United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, called the lack of progress on human rights in Tibet, “heartbreaking from a human rights point of view.”
The Dalai Lama replied, “I am happy, I hear also one splittist.”
Beijing calls the Dalai Lama a reactionary who seeks to split off nearly a quarter of the land mass of the People’s Republic of China. It has been using its diplomatic clout to try to block the pro-Tibetan message.
The 1989 Nobel Peace laureate denies the charge, saying he seeks greater rights, including religious freedom, and autonomy for Tibetans.
His week-long trip to the United States included a variety of events in California, Boston and New York but does not include a meeting with President Barack Obama.
The Dalai Lama, together with tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans, has lived in India since he fled Lhasa.
Photo credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer. The Dalai Lama listens at the “Wisdom and Compassion for Challenging Times” event in New York May 3, 2009.