Dalai Lama backs Olympics, says violence outdated

NARITA, Japan (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, said on Thursday he supports the Beijing Olympics and opposed violent protests that have disrupted the Olympic torch relay around the world.

“It is really deserving for the Chinese people to host the Olympic Games,” he told reporters in Japan. “(Despite) the recent unfortunate event in Tibet, my position won’t change.”

But China’s use of violence was an outdated way to suppress unrest in Tibet, he said during a brief stopover on his way to the United States for a two-week visit he said was not political.

The Dalai Lama told reporters he had sent a message to Tibetans in San Francisco, where the torch relay was held on Wednesday.

“I sent a message to the Tibetans in San Francisco area, please don’t make any violent actions,” he said.

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But he added: “Nobody has the right to say ‘shut up’.”

The torch was a magnet last week for chaotic demonstrations in London and Paris and the torch’s only stop in North America turned into a game of hide-and-seek after the San Francisco route was abruptly changed by city officials.

China blames the Dalai Lama and his associates for orchestrating monk-led protests in Tibet last month that later turned violent as part of a campaign for independence.

The Dalai Lama has denied involvement but said on Thursday China should change its approach to dissent in Tibet.

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“(For) the Chinese government, now the time has come to accept reality and try to find a solution according to reality,” he told a news conference near Tokyo.

“Whenever some crisis happens, just using violent suppression is actually an outdated method,” he said, adding that transparency was important for China to be a superpower.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

He stressed his call for greater autonomy rather than independence for Tibet.

“Tibet must have real autonomy. That means deciding defense and foreign affairs and maybe some others, but those themes that Tibetans can work (with) better.”

Representatives for the Dalai Lama in Tokyo had said he had no plans to meet political figures during his stopover in Japan, although Japanese media reported he had met Akie Abe, wife of former conservative prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fogarty