Dalai Lama celebrates birthday with supporters

DHARMSALA, India  — The Dalai Lama celebrated his 75th birthday today with hundreds of cheering followers in this northern Indian town of Dharmsala where he has been living in exile since he fled Chinese rule in Tibet in 1959.

Looking at posters depicting his life as a child, a young man and a spiritual leader, the man who has come to symbolize Tibet's struggle against China said: "I remember my past and I feel that I haven't wasted these years."

"Even at this age, I find time for my Buddhist studies that give me strength, peace, happiness and keep me in good health," he said.

In neighboring Nepal, police detained at least 22 Tibetan exiles on their way to a celebration for the Dalai Lama, according to an Associated Press reporter who was at the police station in Katmandu.

Katmandu Police Chief Ramesh Kharel said the Tibetans were taken in for questioning and would be released.


Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, a government official in Katmandu, said Nepal will not tolerate protests against 'friendly nations,' including China, though the exiles will be allowed to hold low-key celebrations inside monasteries and refugee camps.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a regular news conference today remarked about the date: "I only remember two dates: March 8, 1951 and May 23, 1959, the liberation of the Tibetan serfs."

In Dharmsala, young artists beat drums and played bagpipes and flutes as the Dalai Lama arrived at his temple to meet his followers.

The Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, raised the Tibetan flag as the musicians played the Tibetan anthem.

The Dalai Lama received gifts and traditional white scarves from his followers, sat through a cultural program of songs and dances and watched an exhibition of Tibetan miniature paintings called "Thangka."

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