Dalai Lama says Olympics a chance to tell China of rights

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama has said the Olympics were an opportunity for the world to remind China of its human rights record, but insisted he supported Beijing’s hosting of the games.

Tibetan exiles attend a Free Tibet demonstration of about 500 protesters in Hamburg, northern Germany, March 26, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

“In order to be a good host to the Olympic Games, China must improve its record in the field of human rights and religious freedom,” the Tibetan leader told India’s NDTV news channel in an interview to be aired on Friday.

“It’s very logical, very reasonable.”

Violent protests across Tibet this month have clouded China’s preparation of the Olympic games and put the spotlight back on Beijing’s rights record in the Himalayan region.

Leaders in France, Taiwan and elsewhere have murmured about a boycott of China’s first Games because of Tibet, following similar concern from foreign-based human rights groups.

The Tibetan government-in-exile based in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala estimated 140 deaths in the violence. China says 19 people were killed, at the hands of Tibetan mobs.

Beijing has pinned the blame for two weeks of violence on the Dalai Lama and said he was trying to sabotage the games. But the Dalai Lama has denied the charge and threatened to resign as the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile if violence went out of control.

“Right from the beginning there are some NGOs, some individuals who have expressed their concern,” he said, calling on the world to do more for Tibet’s cause.

“So the world community, including we Tibetans, think the Chinese need to be reminded about their record on human rights, religious freedom and the Tibetan case.”

The first leg of the Olympic Torch relay, which started this week from Greece, has already been marred by pro-Tibet protests. India has seen huge protests, and New Delhi has moved to allay China’s fears over security for the Torch relay after a crowd tried to storm the Chinese embassy in New Delhi at the weekend.

“We will provide all possible arrangement to ensure that the Olympic Torch travels through India peacefully,” M.K. Narayanan, the national security adviser, told reporters on Wednesday.

Reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani