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Australian Lawmakers Visit Dalai Lama in India

Chinese government has reacted angrily to a meeting between Australian lawmakers and the Dalai Lama in India. It's the first time Australian members of parliament have traveled to the sub-continent to visit the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Chinese Embassy in Canberra says the visit of Australian politicians to the Dalai Lama is a gross case of interference in China's internal affairs.

Tibet's spiritual leader spent more than an hour with members of the first parliamentary delegation from Australia to visit him in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's home in exile.

He thanked the cross-party group of MPs and senators for their support. "Usually I describe our supporters, not like pro-Tibetan, but rather pro-justice," said the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his opposition to the use of violence in his pursuit of self-rule for Tibet. The Chinese government, which has controlled the region more than 50 years, says it has enhanced both living standards and human rights there.

Beijing sees the Dalai Lama as a "splittist," although the Tibetan leader has stated that his goal is for autonomy for his troubled home rather than independence.

Some members of the Australian delegation that met with the Dalai Lama in India hope to travel to Tibet later this year, during an official visit to China.

Such a plan could again inflame sensitivities between Beijing and Canberra.

Australian lawmaker Michael Danby says he thinks that assurances have been given to Canberra by the Chinese to allow the planned trip to go ahead.

"If the parliament asks the Chinese government to allow this group to go, I don't see why they shouldn't be, he said. "They would be breaking their word and I'm sure the Chinese government wouldn't like to be seen to be doing that."

The Dalai Lama traveled to Australia last year. Authorities in Canberra said the trip and a series of official functions and speeches, in which he met senior government figures, reflected the Dalai Lama's status as a religious leader and not a political activist.