The Dalai Lama risks Chinese ire

DHARAMSALA - Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama voiced his support yesterday for an ethnic minority in China's troubled Xinjiang province, risking further worsening his fraught relations with Beijing.

DHARAMSALA - Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama voiced his support yesterday for an ethnic minority in China's troubled Xinjiang province, risking further worsening his fraught relations with Beijing.

In an address marking 51 years since he fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama yesterday referred to Xinjiang as "East Turkestan", the name given to it by pro-independence exiles. The region is populated by an ethnic minority Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking largely Muslim people.

"Let us also remember the people of East Turkestan who have experienced great difficulties and increased oppression," he told about 3000 Tibetans in Dharamsala, the northern Indian hill town.

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have waged a heavy handed campaign against what China calls violent separatist activity by Uighurs. Ethnic violence there last year between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese led to at least 200 deaths. The Dalai Lama's comments will almost certainly rile Beijing, which reviled the Nobel Peace Prize winner as a separatist and said he fomented violence. The Dalai Lama denied both charges.- Reuters

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