Dalai Lama Fears Chinese Push In Tibet After Games

August 13th 2008

Paris, France, 13 August 2008 (By Jean-Baptiste Vey, Reuters) - French parliamentarians who met the Dalai Lama on Wednesday quoted him as saying there was a risk China would accelerate the settlement of one million Han Chinese in Tibet immediately after the  Olympic Games.

Spokesmen for the Tibetan spiritual leader who were at the private meeting could not be reached to confirm the comments, which were reported to Reuters by four pro-Tibet legislators.

"He said that there was a risk ... that immediately after the Games a million Chinese will settle in Tibet to further dilute the Tibetan population," said Jean-Louis Bianco.

Critics of China say it is flooding Tibet with Han Chinese who could swamp its distinctive culture, particularly since the opening of a railway link to the region in 2006.

China denies this, citing huge economic development and great efforts to preserve Tibetan culture. It says only a small number of Han live permanently in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama is on a two-week visit to France, mostly focused on religious commitments. His meeting on Wednesday with the legislators was the only political item on his agenda.

"He gave us very worrying information about the situation in Tibet, speaking of arrests, torture, summary executions and a reinforcement of the Chinese military presence through new barracks," Bianco told Reuters just after the meeting.

At a press conference earlier, the Dalai Lama reiterated his support for the Beijing Olympics.

Asked to comment on a domestic row in France, where critics accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy of caving into Chinese pressure by declining to meet him, the Dalai Lama said Western leaders were right to nurture warm ties with China.

"They should not isolate China. They must bring China into the world community and create genuine friendship," he said.

China has accused the Dalai Lama's followers of seeking to derail the Games by orchestrating unrest across Tibet in March and subsequent protests that disrupted the Olympic torch relay in several countries. The Dalai Lama denies this and has appealed to Tibetans not to protest during the Olympics.

China came under intense pressure to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama in the run-up to the Games after foreign governments were shocked by its crackdown on Tibetan protests in March.

Envoys from the Buddhist leader held talks with Chinese authorities in May and July, but said the results were disappointing.

(Writing by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Robert Hart)


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