Monday, August 21, 2006

Mongolia to Welcome HHDL's "Secret" Visit

As reported by the Associated Press

Monday, August 21, 2006

ULAAN BAATOR, Mongolia (AP) -- Mongolian Buddhists today prepared for a visit by the Dalai Lama, defying possible retaliation by China, which accuses the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader of being a separatist rebel.

The Dalai Lama was expected to arrive Monday on his first trip to this predominantly Buddhist nation since 2002.

Travel details weren't released, in an apparent effort to thwart potential Chinese efforts to persuade other governments to block his trip.

During the 2002 visit, Beijing blocked railway traffic from Mongolia for two days, disrupting copper exports, in apparent retaliation after Ulan Bator allowed the trip to proceed despite Chinese protests.

This week, the Dalai Lama was to be a guest of Mongolia's largest monastery, Gandantegcheling, where monks touched up painting over the weekend in preparation for his arrival.

The main road from the airport into Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, was decorated with dozens of posters bearing the Dalai Lama's image and slogans wishing him long life.

The Dalai Lama was expected to hold a series of lectures for the public and Buddhist clergy and is to stay at a government guesthouse outside the capital.

It wasn't clear whether Mongolia's president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, a practicing Buddhist, would meet him.

Mongolians say they regard the Dalai Lama as a voice for morality and his visit as an affirmation of their country's newfound freedoms, 16 years after the end of one-party communist rule."I'm glad the Dalai Lama is coming to Mongolia despite China's displeasure," said Batkhuu, a 46-year-old high school teacher. (Like many Mongolians, he uses only one name.)

The Dalai Lama travels widely as a religious leader and representative of Tibetan culture. He fled into exile in India in 1959 during a failed uprising against communist rule. Beijing says the Himalayan region has been Chinese territory for centuries, but the area was effectively independent when communist troops arrived in 1950.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of agitating for independence and presses governments not to let him travel.

In 2002, Russia and South Korea refused the Dalai Lama transit visas, apparently under Chinese pressure. He reached Mongolia by traveling through Japan.