HAILEY, Idaho – A rail link being built between Tibet (search) and several major Chinese cities could lead to "cultural genocide" by luring more Chinese workers to the region, the Dalai Lama (search) said.
Tibet's spiritual leader said following a speech in Idaho Sunday that more pressure will be placed on native Tibetans by the rail line scheduled for completion in 2007.
"Some kind of cultural genocide is taking place," the Dalai Lama told reporters. "In general, a railway link is very useful in order to develop, but not when politically motivated to bring about demographic change."
Increasing numbers of ethnic Han Chinese (search) have been moving to Tibet in recent years to work in construction and other booming government industries. Tibetans, working mostly in traditional pursuits such as farming and herding, are struggling to keep up amid what Amnesty International and other human rights groups have denounced as repression and racial bias.
Chinese officials have denied adopting a policy of migration to squeeze out Tibetans and say any income disparities among ethnic groups stem from Han Chinese opting for service jobs while Tibetans prefer lower paid farm work.
The 70-year-old monk was invited to Idaho by Kiril Sokoloff, a Buddhist and financial industry consultant, to give a speech on compassion to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and those suffering from Hurricane Katrina.
"Your sadness, your anger will not solve the problem. More sadness, more frustration only brings more suffering for yourself," the Dalai Lama monk told a crowd of 10,000. "No matter how tragic the situation, we should not lose hope."
While condemning violence, the Dalai Lama also acknowledged mixed feelings over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, telling reporters that "history would decide."
"Violence is something unpredictable," said the Dalai Lama, who has garnered some support from the Bush administration, specifically Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for his campaign to restore Tibetan political autonomy. "In the case of Afghanistan, perhaps there's something positive. In Iraq, it's too early to tell."
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 following an aborted uprising against Chinese rule in the territory and now keeps an office in exile in the Himalayan town of Dharmsala, India.