Dalai Lama to visit Mongolia (The Australian)
(The Australian - 24 July 2001

Lynne O'Donnell Beijing

THE Dalai Lama is planning a trip to Mongolia later this year that is certain to Infuriate China's communist Government, which views him as a subversive intent on splitting the motherland.

The Tibetan leader, who lives in exile in northern India, will travel to the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Baator from September 3 to 15 as a guest of the Gandangtekchenling Monastery, according to his office in Dharamsala.

His visit to Mongolia, which shares a vast land border with China, is expected to elicit a vehement backlash from Beijing, which regards his trips abroad as interference in its internal affairs and accuses him of promoting separatism and Tibetan independence.

Beijing is expected to exert enormous diplomatic pressure on Mongolia not to issue a visa, although most of Mongolia's 2.3 million people are Buddhists and revere the Dalai Lama as a living deity.

"Mongolia can reasonably expect the same treatment and pressure from Beijing that South Korea has in the past over visits by the Dalai Lama. The difference is that Mongolia lets him in," a Western diplomat said.

The South Korean Government last month rejected a request for the Dalai Lama to visit, citing "diplomatic reasons", widely seen as pressure from China.

Mongolia, which became a democracy in 1990 after 70 years of crippling communist rule, has shrugged off China's objections to the Dalai Lama's numerous visits in the past decade by pointing out that religion is a matter of private conscience, not state policy.

His visit will further entrench a religious revival In Mongolia that began with the collapse of communism.

China has refused to reopen a dialogue with the Dalai Lama over the future of Tibet, which it occupied in 1950.

Speaking in New Delhi at the weekend, the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese Government to restart talks with his government-in-exile, and reiterated that he did not seek independence for Tibet but autonomy as laid out in the Chinese constitution.