Dalai Lama says would like to visit China, but prefers to remain in India ‘peacefully’

The Dalai Lama said on Wednesday he would like to visit China as he was “growing older” but “prefer[s] to remain in India peacefully”.

The Tibetan spiritual leader also said Tibet had its unique culture but the Communist Party leadership in Beijing “do not understand the variety of different cultures”.

Speaking from Dharamsala at an online press conference on Wednesday hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying by Reuters that “he had no plan” to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping although he added that he “would like to visit again to see old friends” since “I am growing older”.

He said he preferred to remain in India, where he has been living since 1959. “I prefer to remain here in India, peacefully," he said.

Asked if he would like to visit Taiwan, the Dalai Lama said he would avoid doing so since cross-strait relations were at the moment “quite delicate”. He did praise Taiwan for its approach to culture and religion adding that “mainland Chinese brothers and sisters can learn a lot from Taiwanese brothers and sisters” on how they had preserved Chinese culture, including Buddhism. “Regarding Tibet and also Xinjiang, we have our own unique culture, so the more narrow-minded Chinese Communist leaders, they do not understand the variety of different cultures”, he said.

Reacting to his comments, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing was “open” to dialogue with the Dalai Lama but indicated it would not engage with “the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile [which] is an out and out separatist political group.”

Previous rounds of talks between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Beijing stalled, while the Dalai Lama subsequently relinquished his political role and handed over responsibility to the elected leader of the Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration, which Beijing views as “illegal”.

“It is against China’s constitution and laws, and it is an illegal organisation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. “No country in the world recognises it.”

The now suspended talks had discussed, among other issues, the possibility of the Dalai Lama visiting China where he has millions of followers. The talks had, however, broken down over differences over several issues, including the Dalai Lama calling for “genuine autonomy” for Tibetans not only in the Tibet Autonomous Region but in neighbouring provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan where around half of Tibetans in China live. The Dalai Lama had said he was supportive of a solution to the Tibet question within the framework of China’s constitution and did not want independence but genuine autonomy. The Chinese government, however, rejected his proposals calling them “disguised independence”. Beijing has also insisted it would choose its own successor to the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Wang said “the central government’s position on engaging and discussing issues with the 14th Dalai Lama is consistent and clear” and “the door to dialogue and engagement is open.”

“I would like to stress that the only matter that can be discussed is the future of the Dalai Lama himself and not to do anything with Tibet,” he added. “What the Dalai Lama should do is to stop secessionist activities and take concrete measures to win the trust of the central government and the Chinese people.”

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