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Impasse with China erodes Dalai Lama's patience

On his recent European tour, Tibet's exiled leader preached compassion, but expressed frustration over 'lies and hypocrisy' from Beijing

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 10, 2009

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama arrives on stage for a public lecture at the RAI Conference Centre in Amsterdam last week.

Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos/REUTERS



China's ramped up criticism of Europe's embrace of the Dalai Lama hasn't effectively blunted popular support here for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. And European politicians are still giving him a platform.

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During a visit to Europe that ended in Paris Monday, the Tibetan offered a new and more urgent plea for help as well as a break with decades of a "turn the other cheek" policy. The change comes amid a Chinese crackdown in Tibet that began last year over broad dissatisfaction among Tibetans with Chinese policy, and an uprising among monks. [Editor's note: The original version misstated the timing of the visit.]

The Dalai Lama may not be welcome in Tibet's capital of Lhasa. But several European cities have made him an honorary citizen. Rome and Venice gave him the title in February. He is expected to be given the keys to the City of Warsaw in July. On Sunday, he became an honorary citizen of Paris.

But Tibetan advocacy groups are quietly dismayed over a lack of a unified and consistent European policy. In 2007, the Dalai Lama in polls was ranked as the most respected world leader in Europe. He has since fallen to third place – being bumped from the top spot by Barack Obama. (German Chancellor Angela Merkel is No. 2.)

Despite the warm welcomes in Europe, an intense campaign by China to isolate and vilify the Dalai Lama has seemingly spooked many European politicians.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen met the Dalai Lama in Copenhagen, despite an official call in Beijing for Denmark to "take concrete actions to correct its wrongdoing on Tibet-related issues."

But a meeting with Dutch leader Jan Peter Balkenende was cancelled at the last minute; the Dalai Lama instead met the Dutch foreign minister at a church in The Hague. Mr. Balkenende cited an "irresponsible risk."

In her recent trip to Beijing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was told by China's top legislator, Wu Bangguo, that Taiwan and Tibet were the two most sensitive issues in US-China relations.

As the Dalai Lama readies for a 74th birthday celebration in July, he faces a growing list of challenges.

Tibet has been under a martial crackdown by China for the past year and young Tibetans are increasingly impatient with his nonviolent message of patience.

Beijing authorities are suggesting they will choose and validate the next Dalai Lama. Longtime observers of the Dalai Lama see him beginning to openly challenge a Chinese leadership that has not, in his view, acted in good faith.

'They are awaiting my death'