DHARAMSHALA, India: Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Wednesday offered his best wishes for the Olympics, saying it would be a moment of great pride for the Chinese people.
The Beijing Games should promote “the Olympic spirit of friendship, openness and peace,” the Nobel peace laureate said in Dharamshala, his home-in-exile in northern India.
The 73-year-old repeated his support for the Games, due to start on Friday, ignoring opposition from radical younger followers who have been staging protests in the Indian capital of New Delhi.
“Right from the time of China’s application to hold the Olympic Games, I have supported China’s right to host the Games,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement.
“This is a moment of great pride for the 1.3 billion Chinese people… I would like to offer my greetings to China, the organisers and the athletes,” he added.
Beijing, earlier this year, accused the Dalai Lama of seeking to sabotage the Olympics and of fomenting unrest in Tibet against China’s rule in a bid to embarrass the Chinese government – charges the Buddhist leader denied.
“I send my prayers and good wishes for the success of the event,” he said ahead of a ten-day visit to France, where he will meet French lawmakers.
The Dalai Lama’s office, however, denied speculation he would hold talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“No such meeting is planned and we have not asked for such a meeting,” spokesman Tanzin Takla told AFP.
China’s ambassador to France, Kong Quan, last month warned of “serious consequences” for Franco-Chinese relations if Sarkozy met with the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Sarkozy responded sharply to the ambassador’s comments, saying it was not up to China to decide his schedule, though he did not confirm whether he would meet the Dalai Lama.
The issue of Tibet was thrown into the international spotlight in March during a crackdown on protests against Chinese rule.
The exiled leaders said 203 Tibetans were killed in the crackdown, while Beijing insisted only one Tibetan was killed.
The Tibetan leader’s August 13-23 visit to France was scheduled before the unrest began.
China accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist, but he insists he does not want independence for Tibet and instead is only seeking greater autonomy for the region as well as an end to religious and cultural repression.
The Dalai Lama’s statement came during a hunger strike by six anti-Chinese Tibetans in New Delhi to protest China’s hosting of the Olympics.
“We demand an immediate end to the brutal suppression in Tibet,” a spokesman for the campaigners said.
“The day may not be far off when Tibet will be an independent nation, and our Chinese brothers and sisters will be free from the inhuman communist regime. Then it will be the right time for Beijing to host the Olympics,” he said.
Channel News Asia