China condemns Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia
ULAN BATOR, Aug 23: China criticised Mongolia today for playing host to Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who Beijing brands a separatist.
Thousands flocked to the capital Ulan Bator to welcome the Nobel Prize-winning Tibetan leader-in-exile to Mongolia, where Buddhism has staged a revival since the landlocked country shrugged off Soviet shackles in 1991.
But the Chinese government accused the exiled Dalai Lama of having a political agenda, ''The Chinese government strongly opposes ... any country providing the Dalai Lama with a venue for his separatist activities,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by state media today.
''The Dalai Lama is not a simple or pure religious figure. He is a political exile who undertakes secessionist activities abroad and damages the unity of nationalities.'' Mongolia's Foreign Ministry stressed the visit was sponsored by the Gandantegchenlin monastery and not the government.
''The Dalai Lama visited Mongolia several times before through religious channels. He did not attempt to make any political activities or actions in the past. Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regards this visit as being similar to previous ones,'' the ministry said in a statement.
Before Monday, the Dalai Lama had visited Mongolia five times since the early 1990s, most recently in 2002.
May meet the President
The Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, has said he is only after limited autonomy for Tibet. But China, which invaded the Himalayan region in 1950, routinely refers to him as a ''splittist'' or separatist.
The Office of the President of Mongolia told Reuters yesterday that a meeting between Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and the Dalai Lama was possible.
The Dalai Lama kicked off his week-long visit with a tour of the Gandantegchenlin monastery, the biggest in the country, followed by a public address in front of the monastery's Janraiseg temple, where he extolled Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhist ties in Tibetan and in English.
He described Tibet and Mongolian people as ''barbarian'' prior to the spread of the Buddhist religion and endorsed combining traditional learning with modern education.
Mongolia this year marked 800 years since Genghis Khan forged a nation out of the disparate tribes occupying a vast territory between China and Russia.
China ruled Mongolia from the ManchU dynasty that Khan started until the early 20th century.
Buddhist monastic life, which took hold in Mongolia in the 1500s, was nearly wiped out within 15 years of communist rule, mostly during Stalinist purges in the 1930s when an estimated 17,000 lamas were executed.
But since the country emerged from decades of Soviet dominance, the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism -- also practised in Tibet -- is making a comeback.