Dalai Lama Optimistic About Change in China

Posted June 10th, 2011 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The Dalai Lama says he is optimistic about the possibility of change in China.

While on an 11-day tour of Australia, the Tibetan spiritual leader said Friday he thinks China will become more open, and that will lead to change in other repressive countries, such as Burma and North Korea. He said that refugees from totalitarian systems “have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.”

Although he is on a tour to teach about Buddhism, the Dalai Lama has taken time to meet with journalists and charity groups in Australia. He also donated $95,000 to a charity that helps fight childhood poverty and homelessness in a Melbourne suburb.

Although he has met with some local leaders, it is not clear if he will meet with Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Past prime ministers have met with him, but such visits have drawn the ire of China, which considers the Dalai Lama a traitor who seeks to split Tibet from Beijing's rule.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile with thousands of other Tibetans in India, says he does not want independence for Tibet, but does want greater autonomy for it under Beijing's rule.

Chinese Communist leaders took control of Tibet in the 1950s, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959. Many Tibetans resent Chinese control, saying Beijing seeks to suppress their traditional religious and cultural practices and discriminates against Tibetans. Beijing denies those allegations and says under its rule Tibet's economy has grown dramatically, lifting living standards.

The Dalai Lama this year has given up his political role leading the Tibetan government in exile. Expatriate Tibetans have elected a law professor from Harvard University in the United States to be the next prime minister.

The Buddhist leader's visit to Australia continues through June 20.