ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Dalai Lama said yesterday that the need for environmental responsibility dovetails with Buddhist teachings on valuing human life, whether that is one person or the world's entire population.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader addressed crowds of more than 7,000 during a weekend of lectures at the University of Michigan.
"Taking care of our planet, environment, is something like taking care of our own home," he told an audience at Crisler Arena yesterday. "This blue planet is our only home."
During the lecture, "Earth Day Reflections," the Dalai Lama said he has learned about the need for environmental responsibility from meetings with scientists and other specialists.
Outside the arena, hundreds of pro-China demonstrators held signs and waved Chinese flags. Many wore T-shirts that read "Support Beijing 2008," a reference to the upcoming summer Olympics, and a small airplane flew overhead pulling a banner that read "Dalai Lama Please Stop Attacking Olympic Flame."
That protest led to verbal exchanges between pro-Chinese and pro-Tibetan demonstrators, who traded shouts of "One China" with "Open the door! Let's see what's happening inside Tibet."
Pro-Tibet demonstrators have disrupted Olympic torch runs in protest of China's treatment of the Dalai Lama's followers. He has denied China's assertions that he and his followers have used the Olympics to foment unrest.
The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 in Tibet, started his US visit in Seattle last week for a five-day conference on compassion. It is his first US trip since the recent turmoil. He is scheduled to speak at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., tomorrow.
The spiritual leader said last week that he understands the sentiments of those protesting the Olympics to draw attention to China's human rights record. But he said he was sorry to see some of the demonstrations had turned violent, and said he supports the Beijing Games themselves.
"Demonstration is a way of expressing what you are feeling," he said at a news conference beginning his weekend visit to Ann Arbor. "In a purely nonviolent way, that demonstration is right."
His comments followed a month of sporadic unrest in Tibetan-inhabited areas of western China, as well as protests that have followed the Olympic torch's passage to China.
Chinese police beat and detained dozens of ethnic Tibetans Thursday in Qinghai Province's Tongren county, residents and an activist group said. The police action began after monks demanded the release of a clergyman, they said.The Dalai Lama said Friday that shortly after the recent unrest began, he wrote a letter to the Chinese government and that contact was made through a "private channel." But he said there has been "no sign of the positive." He didn't specifically discuss the latest reports of unrest.
He also said a commitment to democracy should protect the right to peaceful protest, whether the cause is that of pro-Chinese demonstrators who have greeted him in his visit to the United States or opposition to the Beijing Olympics.