Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama arrived in Mongolia on Friday to begin a four-day visit despite strong objections by Beijing, which views the exiled former national leader of Tibet as an international troublemaker bent on separating Tibet from Chinese control.
Following his arrival from Japan at about 4:30 p.m. local time, the Dalai Lama was welcomed at the airport by government representatives, by senior monks of Mongolian monasteries, and by the Indian ambassador. He was then escorted with his entourage to a government guesthouse.
The Dalai Lama’s visit, described as religious in nature by officials in the predominantly Buddhist country, will take him on Saturday to Gaden Thekchen Choeling, Mongolia’s largest monastery, where he will speak to abbots and senior religious teachers from across the country.
He will also visit the monastery of the Kalkha Jetsun Dampa, the ninth head of Mongolia’s Buddhist community.
China had earlier demanded that Mongolia not allow the Dalai Lama to enter the country, saying that relations with China—on which Mongolia heavily depends for trade and investment—would be harmed if the visit goes ahead.
Mongolia’s president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament said however that they support Gaden monastery’s invitation to the Tibetan monk to visit, and that no meetings with government officials are planned.
Chinese leaders regularly vilify the Dalai Lama, now 81, as a separatist fighting for Tibetan independence and routinely object to the widely respected spiritual leader’s foreign travel and contacts with world leaders.
In what he calls a Middle Way Approach, though, the Dalai Lama himself says that he seeks only a “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.
Beijing often berates foreign leaders who host the Buddhist leader, last month telling Slovakian President Andrej Kiska that his lunch meeting with the Dalai Lama had “broken the political basis of China-Slovak relations.”