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Dalai Lama Refuses to Condemn Wave of Tibetan Protesters Setting Themselves on Fire: 'Very, Very Delicate Political Issue


"If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their life."

NEW DELHI (The Blaze/AP) -- The Dalai Lama said in an interview published Monday that it is best for him to remain neutral about the wave of immolations (protesters setting themselves on fire) by Tibetans in China protesting Beijing's repressive policies and calling for his return from exile.

The Dalai Lama described the immolations as a "very, very delicate political issue," and expressed his reluctance to comment on the deaths of Tibetan protesters in China.

(Related: Shocking Photos: Tibetan Exile Sets Himself on Fire in Protest)

The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke of the dilemma he faces in speaking about the immolations in an interview published in The Hindu newspaper.

"If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their life," he said.

"The reality is that if I say something positive, then the Chinese immediately blame me," he said in an interview given on his 77th birthday last week.

In contrast, the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile, based in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, has spoken out more firmly against the immolations. In March, they reminded Tibetans "to refrain from drastic actions." The Dalai Lama reliquished his role as head of the government-in-exile last year.

(Related: State-Run Chinese Website Says Dalai Lama Has ‘Nazi’ Policies: ‘How Similar it Is to the Holocaust’)

China has blamed the Dalai Lama for the self-immolations, which have touched Tibetans emotionally and created an image problem for Beijing.

Around three dozen Buddhist monks, nuns and Tibetan lay people have set themselves on fire over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China. The Tibetans see the immolations as an act of sacrifice to highlight China's repressive policies on religion and culture.

The Tibetan leader urged China to conduct "thorough research" on what was causing people to set themselves on fire. He called on China to "not pretend that nothing is wrong."

The Dalai Lama said he advised young Tibetans, who were calling for independence and a more radical approach, that his "Middle Way" of seeking autonomy within the framework of the Chinese Constitution was the "only realistic way" to address the Tibetan issue.

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