TOKYO (Reuters) - Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday urged Japanese parliamentarians to visit Tibet, and for China to investigate the dozens of self-immolations by Tibetans.
“I always ask the Chinese government: Please, now, thoroughly investigate. What is the cause of these sort of sad things?” the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama told a group of Japanese lawmakers.
Earlier this month, the United Nations’ most senior human rights official called on China to address frustrations that have led to Tibetans’ desperate protests, including some 60 self-immolations since March 2011.
China maintains that Tibet is an integral part of China and that other countries hosting the Dalai Lama amount to interference in domestic Chinese affairs.
“The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities in the guise of religion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.
“The Japanese government has been conniving with the separatist activities of the Dalai Lama and Japanese right-wing forces, which goes against the principle and spirit of China-Japan strategic relations of mutual benefit,” Hong said.
The Dalai Lama’s remarks in Tokyo came against a backdrop of rising tension between Beijing and Tokyo over a territorial dispute.
Japan nationalized two disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese, by purchasing them from their private owners in September.
Shinzo Abe, the leader of the conservative opposition Liberal Democratic Party, welcomed the Dalai Lama to the event. Abe, who served as Japan’s prime minister in 2006-07, could take the helm again after an election expected to be called as early as next month.
China also faces a pending leadership change for the first time in a decade, with leader in-waiting Xi Jinping expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as Communist Party head at a congress in Beijing this month, and then become president in March.
The Dalai Lama on Tuesday also called upon China to follow the example of its late former leader Deng Xiaoping, who is credited with reforms that brought the market economy to the country.
“I always express the leaders should follow Deng Xiaoping’s sort of advice: seeking truth from fact. That’s very, very important,” he said.
Reporting by Lisa Twaronite, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher