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Dalai Lama to begin US visit in Seattle to discuss compassion amid turmoil in Tibet
Japan Dalai Lama XK 5312531
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets the media on his arrival at Narita International Airport, Thursday morning, April 10, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    SEATTLE — The Dalai Lama will mark his first visit to the United States since the recent turmoil in Tibet by anchoring an ambitious conference on compassion.
    Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader was expected to arrive here Thursday, a day after pro-Tibetan demonstrators disrupted the Olympic torch run in San Francisco.
    The Dalai Lama’s visit to Seattle, a city historically friendly to the Tibetan cause, was not expected to spark demonstrations as heated as those following the Olympic torch. But some Tibetan community leaders said they expected activity from pro-China demonstrators.
    In Tibet, the recent protests against five decades of Chinese rule have been the largest and most sustained in almost two decades. China has accused the Dalai Lama of being involved in the uprising. The Tibetan leader has said that he wants greater autonomy for the remote mountain region but is not seeking independence.
    On Thursday, the Dalai Lama said he is willing to support China’s hosting of the Olympic Games this summer, but said Beijing cannot suppress protests in Tibet with violence or tell those calling for more freedom in his homeland ‘‘to shut up.’’
    During a stopover in Japan on his way to the United States, the Tibetan spiritual leader strongly denied Chinese allegations he and his followers have used the run-up to the Olympics to foment unrest. He said he has supported China’s hosting the Olympics from the start.
    ‘‘Right from the beginning, we supported the Olympic Games,’’ he told reporters near the airport outside Tokyo. ‘‘I really feel very sad the government demonizes me. I am just a human; I am not a demon.’’
    President Bush on Wednesday again exhorted Beijing to reach out to the Dalai Lama to find a solution. And the U.S. House passed a resolution criticizing China for its ‘‘disproportionate and extreme’’ response to protests in Tibet. It urged Beijing to hold direct, unconditional talks with the Dalai Lama.
    Organizers of the five-day Seeds of Compassion conference in Seattle say the Dalai Lama’s visit is expected to draw more than 150,000 people.
    Despite political pressure from China, the Dalai Lama was determined to attend the conference because of his commitment to global peace, organizers said.
    ‘‘He wants compassion for both sides, for the Tibetans, for the Chinese brothers,’’ said Lama Tenzin Dhonden, a Tibetan monk who spearheaded the development of the conference.
    Seattle was picked as the conference site because of its leadership in philanthropy, business and technology, Dhonden said.
    Seeds of Compassion will feature dozens of workshops on various subjects, beginning with a panel discussion Friday with the Dalai Lama on ‘‘The Scientific Basis for Compassion: What We Know Now.’’ Early childhood development is one of the main focuses of the conference.
    Tickets for events involving the Dalai Lama have already sold out, according to the conference Web site.
    Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels will present the key to the city to the Tibetan leader and the University of Washington will present him an honorary degree.
    The Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 in Tibet, but remains the religious and cultural leader of many Tibetans. He was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1989.
    No large demonstrations are expected from the Tibetan community out of respect to the Dalai Lama, Tibetan community leaders said.
    ‘‘He is a living spirit of the people in Tibet, so we don’t see anything to do at this time,’’ said Tashi Namgyal, president of the Tibet Association of Washington.
    The Chinese community in Seattle has been split by the Tibetan situation, said Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, a local Asian-American community newspaper. Ng said she wouldn’t be surprised if pro-China demonstrators show up at some of the events, and added that some Chinese students plan to protest the politicization of the Olympics.
    After Seattle, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor on April 19 and 20, then at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., on April 22.


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