The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, arrived in Toulouse in southwest France on Friday to spread his teachings there, saying he was “happy” to be free of political tasks.
Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard academic, took office on Monday as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, taking over the role of prime minister from the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
“Today I am just a spiritual person, I have no political responsibility,” the Dalai Lama said on his arrival in France, where he will over the next few days address people on “the meaning of human values” and promote religious harmony.
He stressed he had given up political power “voluntarily.”
He applauded progress made among Chinese “intellectuals [and] writers” which, he said, has boosted hopes of establishing improved relations between China and Tibet.
He also restated that Tibet’s political leadership is “not seeking separation” from Beijing.
In his speech after being sworn in as Tibet’s new prime minister-in-exile, Sangay stressed his commitment to the principle of non-violence and support for the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” policy, which seeks “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet under Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama’s visit to Toulouse, which includes a two-day Buddhist conference that started yesterday, has a “pastoral” aim, his staff have said, and about 10,000 people have signed up to hear him speak.
There are believed to be about 800,000 practicing Buddhists in France.
The Dalai Lama will retain his role as Tibet’s spiritual leader and remain a major influence on policy-making decisions.
He fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and later founded the government-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India.