Or he was, at least. For 90 minutes today, the spiritual leader of Tibet, who joined the social networking site in February, held an online conversation with the aim of reaching people inside China via Twitter. To post the conversation, the Dalai Lama used the Twitter feed of a Chinese writer and convert to Tibetan Buddhism named Wang Lixiong during a meeting between the two men at a hotel in New York City. Wang’s Twitter account had more than 8,000 followers as of Friday.
Out of the more than 1,200 questions submitted to the Dalai Lama, he answered almost 300 and didn't shy away from talking about the fate of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama criticized China's policies in Tibet and tweeted kind words to Chinese citizens, AP reports. The dialogue touched on everything from politics to his eventual successor.
This was the first such attempt to reach out via Twitter to Chinese citizens. It’s not clear how many people inside China read his comments because Twitter is blocked in China, but unofficial estimates put the number of registered Twitter users in China at 150,000.
Chinese officials refer to the Dalai Lama as a "wolf in monk's clothing" and accuse him of seeking independence for Tibet. The Dalai Lama says he merely wants more meaningful autonomy on the Himalayan plateau.
The gap between Tibetans and China's majority Han Chinese "is getting deeper and deeper" the Dalai Lama said. Adding that in some areas the Han community has grown so dramatically that "Tibetan culture faces a great crisis."
The Twitter chat was held from a New York City hotel as the Buddhist spiritual leader was ending a brief US tour, during which he also gave the following interview to Ann Curry on NBC's The Today Show: