China labels Dalai Lama a supporter of "cults"

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BEIJING, Oct 9 (Reuters) China, in its latest invective against Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, today accused the exiled Nobel peace prize laureate of supporting ''evil cults'' like Falun Gong and Japan's Aum Shinrikyo.

China has ruled the mountainous Himalayan region of Tibet with an iron fist since Chinese troops marched in there in 1950.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against communist rule in 1959 and is branded by China as a ''separatist''. He says he only wants greater autonomy for the region.

In a lengthy signed commentary in English carried by the official Xinhua news agency, the piece said the Dalai Lama ''not only has no hatred toward evil cults but instead shows a great deal of compassion for them''.

The Dalai Lama supported Shoko Asahara and his Aum Shinrikyo cult, who carried out a sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 which killed 12 and made thousands sick, Xinhua said, in a piece signed by somebody calling themselves Shi Shan.

''It was the support and connivance of the 14th Dalai Lama who took the foe for his friend that made Asahara feel secure in the knowledge that he had strong backing,'' Xinhua said, in typically strong language.

''It is the 14th Dalai Lama's own deeds that have step by step betrayed his real intentions and political ambitions put under the guise of Buddhism and peace,'' it added.

The Dalai Lama also provided succor to the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned by China as an ''evil cult'', and its leader Li Hongzhi, Xinhua said.

''... Even such an evil cult leader who is denounced by many people and had to flee abroad to escape the punishment of laws secured compassion and admiration from the 14th Dalai Lama,'' it added.

Critics have accused China of repressing religious freedom in Tibet and other parts of the country, but Beijing counters by saying it guarantees religious freedom and invests large amounts of money every year to modernise the underdeveloped Tibetan region.

Last month, China chided German Chancellor Angela Merkel for hosting the Dalai Lama and demanded Berlin take action to repair damage to bilateral ties.

REUTERS SG ND1500

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