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Dalai Lama Says China Has No Right to Silence Protesters

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has reiterated his support for the Beijing Olympic Games, but says authorities in China have no right to demand that critics end peaceful demonstrations against China's actions in Tibet. Naomi Martig in Hong Kong has more.

The Dalai Lama says it is good for China to host this year's Olympic Games.

"Right from the beginning, I support Chinese host of famous world games because China is the most populous nation, an ancient nation," he noted. "Therefore, it is really deserve(d) for the Chinese people to make host of Olympic Games."

China claims Tibet as part of its territory, but Tibetans have opposed its rule. Last month, the region saw its biggest and most violent anti-government demonstrations in years, which the Chinese government quickly crushed.

The incidents sparked anti-China protests around the world. The Olympic torch relay prompted massive demonstrations in Paris, London and San Francisco.

The Dalai Lama spoke to reporters in Tokyo Thursday, where he is making a stopover en route to the United States. He said the protesters have the right to their opinions, despite China's calls for an end to demonstrations. He reiterated, however, his calls for peaceful protests.

"I sent a message to Tibetans in San Francisco area, please don't make any violent sort of activities," he said. "Of course the expression of their feeling is up to them. But nobody has a right to say 'shut up'. It is (an) individual right, isn't it?"

Beijing accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader of orchestrating the riots, a charge he denies. The Dalai Lama said one of the reasons China faces international criticism is that there is no freedom of speech in Tibet.

"That's a source of the problem," he said. "Therefore, we deliberately committed promotion of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of thought. So along Tibet there are people who directly criticize me. We welcome them! It is their right to criticize. I have no right to say shut up."

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Chinese authorities accuse him of advocating independence. The Dalai Lama, however, says he supports greater autonomy for Tibet, not independence.

The Dalai Lama's representatives say he has no plans to meet with political leaders during his stop in Japan. He is on his way to the United States for a two-week visit to give a series of lectures on spirituality.