Beijing blocks flights as Mongolia welcomes Dalai Lama.
China has hit out at its neighbour for hosting the Tibetan leader, a "separatist".
Asia News, Italy22 August, 2006Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews) - Defying Chinese criticism, thousands of Mongolians welcomed the Dalai Lama, who reached their country yesterday for an eight-day visit. Beijing has come out publicly against the decision to host him and has blocked flights to Mongolia.
The head of Tibetan Buddhism went first to Gandantegchenlin monastery, Mongolia's largest centre of Buddhism. Outside the Janraiseg temple, the largest pagoda in the monastery, he blessed the crowd hailing him."We need to focus on modern, current education, but not forget about our traditional ways of life," said the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan leader dared to make a comparison between Mongolia and Tibet: "Many years ago Mongolia was much like Tibet, and the citizens of both countries were barbarians. But after education and learning, we have grown to be the states we are today."
Beijing is livid about the visit and the space given the Dalai Lama by its neighbouring state. Today, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister said: "The Dalai Lama is not only a religious figure but a political exile who has long been involved in separatist activities that undermine national unity." He added: "China is resolutely against any country offering him a platform to publicize these activities."
Today, Air China flights on the Beijing-Ulaanbaatar route were cancelled, officially because of "bad weather" although meteorological forecasts predicted good weather. Four years ago, when the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia, China closed its borders.
The Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet that had been occupied militarily by the Chinese in 1959. He persists in calling for a sort of autonomy for Tibet although it could remain bound to China. But his proposal has been turned down by Beijing.The head of Tibetan Buddhism arrived at the Genghis Khan airport in the Mongolian capital last night, on a flight from Japan. He was welcomed by official personalities, monks of Gandantegchenlin and representatives of the Indian embassy. In the coming days, the Dalai Lama will hold lectures in a stadium, open to all. He will have special meetings with personnel of the monasteries and will hold some television conferences.