The leader of Japan’s main opposition party met with the Dalai Lama today and called for democracy in Tibet, sparking a fresh protest from China amid a territorial dispute.
“I swear I will do everything in my power to change the situation in Tibet, where human rights are being suppressed,” Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe said before a speech by the Dalai Lama in Tokyo attended by more than 100 lawmakers. “Tibet seeks freedom and democracy and we agree on those values.”
Polls show Abe may become Japan’s next leader in an election Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda may call before the end of the year. Abe, who was prime minister from 2006-2007, advocates building on islands at the heart of a dispute with China that has damaged the $340 billion trade relationship between’s Asia’s two biggest economies.
China filed a formal diplomatic protest over what it called remarks by Japanese “rightists,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing today.
“Japan’s right wing faction openly supports the Dalai Lama’s separatist activity, interfering in China’s internal affairs,” he said. “China solemnly condemns this.”
Noda’s government bought the islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, from a private owner in September. The purchase spurred protests and attacks on Japanese businesses in China.
The Dalai Lama’s visit to Tokyo coincides with China’s 18th Communist Party Congress, at which the next generation of the country’s leadership will be unveiled, as well as self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese policies in the region. A man in his mid-20’s set fire to himself yesterday in Tibet, the seventh Tibetan to self-immolate in six days, the Free Tibet advocacy group said in a statement.
Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing China’s military takeover of the region in 1959. China accuses the Dalai Lama of waging a campaign for independence while the spiritual leader says he is seeking autonomy for Tibet.
Speaking at a briefing yesterday, Hong said the Dalai Lama’s group had organized the immolations. The Dalai Lama is “trying to sacrifice other people’s lives to advance his goal of Tibetan independence,” he said.