Dalai Lama meets Helen Clark, renews pleas for autonomy


Fri, Jun 15, 2007 - Page 5

The Dalai Lama renewed pleas for Tibet's autonomy after meeting with New Zealand's prime minister at an Australian airport yesterday, the latest in a string of meetings with dignitaries that have drawn condemnation from China.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's 11-day tour of Australia has created a furor in Beijing, which regards the 71-year-old Buddhist icon as a beacon for pro-independence sentiment in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said he seeks only autonomy for the region, which China rules by military force.

Decisions by top political leaders to meet the Dalai Lama this week have generated friction between Australia and China, whose economies are becoming more entwined thanks to China's voracious appetite for coal and other minerals and Australia's ability to supply them.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark met the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner by "serendipity" at an Australian airport early yesterday, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters, told a parliamentary committee yesterday. Peters did not say what the two figures discussed, only that they talked for some time.

At a news conference in Sydney, the Dalai Lama repeated his position that Tibet should be granted autonomy within China, not full independence, to preserve its language and culture.

"Our approach is to bring general unity, harmony between the central government of China and Tibet," he said. "We have to learn to live side by side."

Without genuine autonomy, he said, Tibet could face "extinction" in 15 years.

"China should give Tibet meaningful autonomy, because we have different language, with that rich different culture and heritage and rich Tibetan Buddhist tradition," he said, echoing earlier comments. "Intentional or unintentional, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced he too will meet with the Dalai Lama today.