Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is due to start a high-profile visit to Washington Monday, once again throwing the spotlight on the plight of his homeland, a region inside Chinese territory. The Dalai Lama's trip comes as diplomatic talks between his representatives and the Chinese government have stalled.
Whenever the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, makes news headlines abroad, Beijing objects. Chinese Embassy spokesman Chu Maoming emphasized that this position has not changed. "The 14th Dalai Lama is not a pure religious figure. He is a political fugitive," said the spokesman.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959. He lives in India, and was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1989.
The Chinese spokesman accused the 70-year-old Nobel laureate of trying to increase international support for an independent Tibet, and he urged countries around the world not to host the Tibetan leader.
"The Chinese government opposes any political activities of the Dalai Lama, in any country, aimed at separating China and undermining national unity," he said. "The Chinese government also opposes any invitation extended to, or meeting with, the Dalai Lama, by official figures of any country, in whatever names or forms."
The Dalai Lama arrives Monday in Washington for a 10-day visit. His special envoy, Lodi Gyari, said he believes Beijing has the wrong impression of the purpose of the Tibetan spiritual leader's U.S. visit.
"In fact, when his Holiness comes here, I can tell you his message will be not one of talking about splitting China, nor about criticizing China," said Mr. Gyari. "In fact, he will be here with the simple message, saying he wants to reach out to the Chinese. He wants to be someone who can help stabilize China."
The Dalai Lama is not calling for Tibetan independence; rather, he urges China to grant Tibet greater autonomy and respect Tibetan culture and religion. The Tibetan envoy acknowledged that, although the Dalai Lama's trip will anger the Chinese government, he believes it will also have what he described as an important effect on the world stage.
"Because [the Chinese] see this all as a conspiracy. They see all this as if he is here just to embarrass them," said Mr. Gyari. "But having said that, I think the Chinese leaders are much more responsive to international concern. I do not want to use the word pressure, (but just) international concern."
During the Dalai Lama's trip to Washington, he will meet with Congressional leaders. He also is expected to meet with President Bush. The U.S. leader previously has met the Dalai Lama twice at the White House, in 2001 and 2003.
On less worldly matters, the Tibetan leader will be a featured speaker at a conference to discuss the science and clinical applications of meditation and, in a separate appearance, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. He also will present a public talk, titled "Global Peace Through Compassion."