ROME — Countries shouldn’t confront China directly on the delicate Tibet issue but rather befriend it and then work to promote human rights and religious freedom through a trusting relationship with Beijing, the Dalai Lama said Wednesday.
Because of China’s economic and political importance on the world stage, it should never be isolated as it once was during the Cultural Revolution, Tibet’s spiritual leader told reporters at the start of a three-day visit.
“(Making) good friends with China is very essential,” he said. “Within that, certain principles, such as human rights issues, religious freedom, democracy, rule of law, I think these principles matter. Friends of (the) people of China should help them to materialize these things.”
The Dalai Lama is in Italy at the invitation of a bipartisan inter-parliamentary group. The group last month pushed through a resolution in parliament’s lower chamber calling for the Italian government to take all possible initiatives to resolve the Tibet dispute.
The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner met with members of parliament and a deputy foreign minister Wednesday, and has an audience with Pope John Paul II scheduled for Thursday. However, as of Wednesday, Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s office hadn’t confirmed a meeting, and even the Vatican hasn’t officially announced the papal audience.
When asked whether he was concerned that China was pressuring world leaders not to receive him, the Dalai Lama said he had no such worries.
“I do not want to create any embarrassment, any inconvenience,” he said. “My main sort of interest, or main purpose or goal is promotion of human values and promotion of religious harmony.”
Berlusconi currently is president of the European Union, and last month headed an EU delegation to China. Opponents at home criticized him for not raising human rights issues during the visit, and have called on him to receive the Dalai Lama, with whom he met in 1994 during his first term as premier.
Last month, ahead of the EU mission, China specifically called on the EU to avoid giving any assistance or attention to the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing regards as a divisive force in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama said he thought China was more willing now than ever to listen to complaints from its friends about human rights issues, and that eventually Beijing would be willing to address the Tibet issue.
China used to react negatively when human rights issues were raised in the past. But the Dalai Lama said the Chinese now are more willinging to discuss such matters, “so similarly, the Tibetan issue also eventually I think they will understand.”
The Dalai Lama wants autonomy for Tibet, which China has occupied since 1951. He led about 80,000 Tibetans into exile in 1959, and heads a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.