VIENNA – The Dalai Lama and the prime minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay on Friday said they were open to dialogue with China and called for real autonomy for the region.
The 76-year-old exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who is on an 11-day visit to Austria told journalists on arrival in Vienna he wanted a solution with mutual benefit for Tibet and China.
Sangay stressed that it was not a question of securing independence for Tibet but that the region aspired to real autonomy within the Chinese constitution.
The Dalai Lama was due to meet the Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger later on Friday. He was also expected to meet Chancellor Werner Faymann.
Sangay also condemned what he termed unacceptable conditions in Tibet due to the Chinese presence there and said the situation was unbearable for the people.
He called for a return of the Dalai Lama to Lhasa and for autonomy.
The Dalai Lama will speak in Vienna on Saturday at a gathering of support for the Tibetan people.
China, which considers the Dalai Lama to be a separatist leader, has condemned the meetings with Austrian officials.
Chinese ambassador to Vienna Shi Mingde said on Monday that Austria should not offer a platform to the Dalai Lama’s separatist tendencies, adding that it would not be beneficial to relations with Beijing.
The Nobel Laureate who has lived in exile in India since 1959 has a long relationship with Austria and visits regularly — the last time in 2007.
China has imposed tight security to contain simmering discontent in Tibetan regions since 2008, when deadly rioting against Chinese rule broke out in Lhasa and spread to neighboring Tibetan-inhabited regions.
A total of 34 Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks and nuns, are reported to have set themselves on fire in Tibetan-inhabited areas since the start of 2011 to protest against Beijing.