China open to Dalai Lama visit

By Elaine Kurtenbach The Associated Press

BEIJING – China suggested Monday that it was open to a visit from the Dalai Lama and to establishing ties with the Vatican.

The Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, announced last month that he hoped to travel to China on a pilgrimage. He said envoys had conveyed his message to officials in Beijing.

He has repeatedly said he wants autonomy, not independence, for his Himalayan homeland. But Beijing has expressed suspicion.

“As long as the Dalai Lama makes clear that he has completely abandoned Tibetan ‘independence,’ it is not impossible for us to consider his visit,” said Ye Xiaowen, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, quoted by the China Daily.

But Ye said the Dalai Lama “has failed to deliver a clear message on his stance.”

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, after communist forces occupied the region. He hasn’t been back since.

Ye was also quoted by the government newspaper as saying China and the Vatican are in contact about normalizing relations but haven’t worked out a timetable.

The Vatican has said it is ready to move its embassy from rival Taiwan.