Washington: A key US congressional supporter of the Dalai Lama on Thursday urged China not to try to divide Tibetans after the spiritual leader said he would step down from his political role.
Nancy Pelosi, the top lawmaker of President Barack Obama`s Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, hailed the Dalai Lama`s "extraordinary commitment to democracy" after he said he would quit as head of Tibet`s exiled government.
"The bond between the Dalai Lama and Tibetans is unbreakable, and attempts by the Chinese government to dictate Tibetan Buddhist teachings and drive a wedge between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people will continue to be counterproductive," said Pelosi, a former speaker of the House.
Pelosi, who represents San Francisco`s Chinatown and is close to the Tibetan spiritual leader, also urged China to free political prisoners including the young man chosen by the Dalai Lama to the important position of Panchen Lama.
The Dalai Lama, a 75-year-old Nobel laureate with a wide global following, said he wanted to hand over political power to an elected leader but would retain his spiritual role.
The Dalai Lama was speaking on the anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule that caused him to flee into exile in India.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu described the Dalai Lama`s remarks as "tricks to deceive the international community”.