January 18, 2009 / 1:59 PM / 10 years ago

Dalai Lama says faith in Chinese people unshaken

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said he had faith in China’s people and held out hope for an eventual change in policy towards Tibet, even though his faith was faltering in the Chinese government.

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, speaks during a conference themed 'World Peace and Heritage' at the India Islamic cultural centre in New Delhi January 18, 2009. REUTERS/B Mathur

“Our faith towards (Chinese) government is getting thinner and thinner, however our faith in the Chinese people has never shaken,” he said on Sunday, replying to questions on what he thought could resolve the issue of Tibet 50 years after he fled.

China has stepped up its defence of its rule over Tibet, but the Dalai Lama said he had seen change even in China.

“Now it is no longer a true socialist country, but rather a communist, dictatorial, capitalist country,” he said, adding criticism of its leaders was more prevalent now.

“Nowadays, in restaurants and shops, tea shops, criticism of leaders is quite common. So things are changing .... governments change, leadership changes, and eventually, the policy will also change,” he said at a Delhi college on a visit to the capital.

China last week lashed out at the Dalai Lama, accusing him of “sabotage” to slow the development of Tibet.

Tibet plans to start construction this year on the region’s first expressway, a four-lane road stretching 40 km from Lhasa, and to provide all counties with roads by next year and electricity by 2015.

Demonstrations by monks in Lhasa last March escalated into deadly riots and triggered protests against Chinese rule across the Tibetan plateau, particularly in the run-up to the summer Olympics in Beijing last August.

China blamed the unrest on the Dalai Lama, whom it regularly brands a “splittist” or separatist. The Dalai Lama denies the charge, saying he is only seeking greater autonomy.

The Tibetan spirit was strong, the Dalai Lama said in Delhi, and there was greater concern for Tibet even within China.

“As time passes, I think (China’s policy) has to change. In the long run, in spite of the setback, I think in the long run it’s ok ... the Tibetan spirit is very, very strong,” he said.

“Also, worldwide ... people are very, very supportive. And among Chinese individuals, more and more people are showing their concern and their support for Tibet,” he said.

Dalai Lama, a Noble Laureate, also stressed the importance of ties between Tibet and India, where he has lived in exile since 1959 after a failed insurrection against Chinese rule.

“Our relation is like the relation between guru (teacher) and chela (student), in this case you (Indians) are our guru, we are your chela ... I think faithful chela,” he said.

“When the chela faces some difficulties, then guru has some responsibility.”

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