Dalai Lama says 'happy' to be free of political tasks
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, arrived in Toulouse in southwest France Friday to spread his teachings there, saying he was "happy" to be free of political tasks.
Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard scholar, took office Monday as head of the Tibetan government in exile, taking over the role of prime minister from the the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
"Today I am just a spiritual person, I have no political responsibility," the Dalai Lama said on his arrival in France, where he will over the next few days address people on "the meaning of human values" and promote religious harmony.
He stressed he had given up political power "voluntarily", adding: "I'm very happy."
He applauded progress made among Chinese "intellectuals (and) writers" which, he said, has boosted hopes of establishing improved relations between China and Tibet.
He also restated that Tibet's political leadership is "not seeking separation" from Beijing.
In his speech after being sworn in as Tibet's new prime minister in exile, Sangay stressed his commitment to the principle of non-violence and support for the Dalai Lama's "middle-way" policy, which seeks "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet under Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama's visit to Toulouse, which includes a two-day Buddhist conference starting Saturday, has a "pastoral" aim, his staff have said, and some 10,000 people have signed up to hear him speak.
There are believed to be some 800,000 practicing Buddhists in France.
The Dalai Lama will retain the significant role of Tibet's spiritual leader and a major influence on policy-making decisions.
He fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He later founded the government in exile in Dharamshala, northern India.
© 2011 AFP