Dalai Lama begins Australia tour

Questions over whether PM will meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

    The Dalai Lama has been condemned as a
    dangerous "splittist" by Beijing [AFP]

    Australia is enjoying an economic boom built on the back of record Chinese demand for natural resources.


    Hoping to increase ties, both countries are also working towards a free trade agreement and experts say no politician wants to be seen as undermining that.


    "The China relationship is seen to be the major driver of Australia’s economic success, so no party wants to be seen as threatening the golden goose egg so to speak," Dr Malcolm Cook, Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Sydey's Lowy Institute for International Policy told Al Jazeera.


    Tibet key dates

    1950 Chinese military invades Tibet

    1959 Dalai Lama flees to exile in India

    1960s-70s Hundreds of monasteries destroyed during Chinese Cultural Revolution

    1965 China announces creation of Tibet Autonomous Region

    1987 Dalai Lama awarded Nobel Peace Prize for leading non-violent struggle for Tibet

    2006 China opens first rail line to Tibet

    China’s leaders have condemned the Dalai Lama as a "splittist", for what they say is his goal of achieving independence for Tibet.


    The leader of Australia's opposition Labour Party, Kevin Rudd, has said he will meet the Dalai Lama next Tuesday.


    However, officials in the office of John Howard, the Australian prime minister, said they were still checking his itinerary to see whether he would be able to meet the 71-year-old Tibetan leader.


    Earlier this year the Dalai Lama cancelled a visit to Belgium, reportedly after Beijing put pressure on the government in Brussels over an upcoming trade visit to China led by the Belgian crown-prince.


    Starting his visit in the western city of Perth on Tuesday the Dalai Lama used his first appearance in Australia in five years to focus on fighting poverty and environmental issues.


    He said it was important for Australians and people around the world to realise theu had a moral responsibility to keep preserve the planet's natural resources for future generations


    The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid a crackdown by the Chinese military on dissent following China's invasion of Tibet nine years earlier.


    He now heads a Tibetan government in exile in the Indian Himalayan town of Dharamsala.


    He has said he only wants limited autonomy for Tibet, but China has condemned him as a separatist.


    In recent years representatives from Beijing have held several rounds of secret talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama, but there has been little sign of progress.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera + Agencies


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