April 20, 2008 / 7:54 PM / 9 years ago

Demonstrators in U.S. call Dalai Lama a liar

<p>The Dalai Lama leads a Buddhist teaching session on Wisdom and Compassion at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan April 19, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>

ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama on Sunday urged the world to work for a sustainable planet while pro-China demonstrators accused him of lying about the turmoil in his homeland.

There were no arrests among the 300 to 400 people who showed up outside his speech at a University of Michigan sports arena where the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader spoke to about 8,300 people in an Earth Day-themed lecture.

The demonstrators repeatedly chanted “Dalai Liar!” and cheered when a plane circled overhead trailing a large banner reading “Dalai Please Stop Attacking Olympic Flame.”

The vast majority of the demonstrators appeared to be of Chinese ancestry and wore white shirts emblazoned with “Support Beijing Olympics 2008” and red shirts printed with the Chinese flag.

“Tibet Belongs to China and So Do I” read one sign in the crowd.

Beijing has accused the 72-year-old Dalai Lama of being behind March 14 riots in Lhasa and unrest that followed in other ethnic Tibetan areas, as part of a bid for Tibetan independence and to ruin the coming Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama has said he wants autonomy for Tibet, not a separate state, and has denied he orchestrated the unrest, which China says killed 19 people. Exiled Tibetans have given a far higher death toll.

The situation has resulted in demonstrations against and attacks on the Olympic torch as it travels around the world ahead of the summer games in Beijing.

The Dalai Lama avoided the Tibet issue in his lecture, saying he was not there to teach politics but to talk about the need to take care of the environment.

“Taking care of Earth is like taking care of your home,” he said, adding that burning the furniture to keep warm is foolish.

“This blue planet is the only home,” he said, and its inhabitants should see one another as equals.

He is scheduled to meet on Monday on the Michigan campus with the U.S. special envoy for Tibet, Paula Dobriansky, the 11th such meeting the two will have had.

The U.S. State Department said last week Washington was not likely to offer any new initiatives but that the two would discuss the U.S. view that Chinese authorities should engage the Dalai Lama directly in a discussion.

Writing by Michael Conlon in Chicago; editing by Cynthia Osterman

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