China protests Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia

DPA, August 22, 2006

Ulan Bator/Beijing -- China protested Tuesday the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia, which has historically maintained close religious and cultural relations with Tibet.

In Ulan Bator, the Dalai Lama, the exiled religious leader of Tibet, attended ceremonies at Mongolia's Gandantegcheling monastery, the religious centre of the Mongols, 90 per cent of whom practice Tibetan Buddhism.

Beijing, which considers the Dalai Lama a political figure in exile and of agitating for independence for Tibet, often pressures governments not to let him visit or transit through their countries.

China is "resolutely opposed to any country offering him a stage," said the Foreign Ministry Tuesday.

The Dalai Lama's first visit to Mongolia three years ago also resulted in a protest from the Chinese government and retaliation through a blockade of railway traffic from Mongolia for two days.

For Mongols, the Dalai Lama's visits are an affirmation of their country's newfound freedoms, 16 years after the end of one-party communist rule.

It is the seventh visit of the Dalai Lama to Mongolia since 1979.