02/11/2006, 00.00
China - Tibet
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Chinese pilgrims meet the Dalai Lama

Over 10 thousand people are permitted to make their way to India.  The Chinese authorities  concession of such a large number of permits' points towards a relaxation in visa laws.  But the Office for Religious Affairs negate a change in policy, outbound pilgrims, they say, must go through official channels.  

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from Tibet and some mainland provinces attended a prayer meeting with the Dalai Lama in India last month.

Tibet's government-in-exile in Dharamsala yesterday said about 200 ethnic Chinese and up to 10,000 Tibetans attended the Buddhist initiation ceremony Kalachakra in Amravati, south India, last month.

"Certainly, we believe that this time we have a huge number of Tibetan people who came all the way from Tibet," spokesman Jigme Tsultrim said.

"[Chinese authorities] are allowing and giving more and more flexibility in issuing these travel documents."

It was not clear why so many were allowed to go. But easing restrictions on Tibetans travelling for the ceremony could be a confidence-building measure ahead of another round of talks, which sources say could happen soon.

No comparative figures were available. Curbs on Chinese nationals travelling to India were only eased in 2003.

"The Chinese government neither encourages nor bans people from attending," said Luorong Zhandui, of the China Tibet Research Centre, a government think-tank.

A spokesman for the State Religious Affairs Bureau said he had no knowledge of the event, but said overseas-bound pilgrims needed to go through official procedures.

The Dalai Lama has been branded a traitor by Beijing but he is still revered in Tibet, despite a government system that enforces political study to keep monasteries in check.

In November, he said that confidence-building talks between Tibetans and Beijing had done little to ease a "very repressive" atmosphere in Tibet.

At the ceremony, the Dalai Lama said he hoped to return to his homeland one day and denied any dreams for independence.

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