Dalai Lama Arrives for 5-Day Visit to Germany

By: George Frey
By: George Frey

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- The Dalai Lama arrived Thursday for a five-day tour of Germany, where his last visit sent German-Chinese relations into a spiral.

This time, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader will not be meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a trip to Latin America.

Instead, his trip is largely a speaking tour sprinkled with meetings with politicians. He plans to give four lectures - in Nuremberg, Bamberg, Bochum and Moenchengladbach - and a final speech Monday in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate will also meet two state governors from Merkel's conservative party - starting Thursday with Hesse's Roland Koch and then North Rhine-Westphalia's Juergen Ruettgers - as well as Norbert Lammert, president of Germany's parliament.

China, which claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, protests such meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama. China has ruled the Himalayan region with a heavy hand since its communist-led forces invaded in 1959.

Upon his arrival in Germany, the Dalai Lama reiterated that what he sought was "real autonomy" for Tibet and suggested that his land and China shared a "universal heritage."

"We are not seeking independence," he said at a news conference with Koch.

China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they have been effectively independent for most of that period.

Protests started March 10 in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Events turned violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans in three neighboring provinces.

But the Dalai Lama's visit to Germany comes after China held informal talks with his representatives about the crackdown in Tibet. Koch hailed those talks as a success, and said that he hoped "that we can get results" from them soon.

Merkel hosted the Dalai Lama in September in the Berlin chancellery - an encounter that underlined her willingness to publicly address awkward issues with China, but also exposed strains in her left-right governing coalition and infuriated Beijing, which canceled several meetings between officials.

Merkel spokesman Thomas Steg on Wednesday dismissed suggestions that the government was avoiding another meeting with the Dalai Lama this time. He pointed out that Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul would meet the Dalai Lama on Monday.

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