VILNIUS (AFP) – The Dalai Lama said Friday he believed China was being "more realistic" about Tibet after decades of what he termed failed hardline policy.
Beijing has long accused Tibet's exiled spiritual leader of encouraging separatism and violence, but the Nobel Peace laureate said Friday he is only seeking "meaningful autonomy" for Tibetans within China and accepts Chinese rule.
"China's hardliner policy completely failed (...)," the 78-year-old said after a lecture in Vilnius, capital of current EU president Lithuania.
"(Chinese) leaders are really now trying to approach (it) more realistically. So that's a hopeful sign."
"I am quite optimistic," he added, saying he saw some signs of change including more and more Chinese intellectuals and Buddhists showing solidarity with Tibet.
The statement, which appears to signal a slight change in the tone of the Dalai Lama, follows reports earlier this year suggesting Beijing was considering relaxing its stance on the Buddhist leader.
The reports said authorities in some Tibetan areas were allowing locals to worship him as a religious leader. However, in July China denied there had been any change in policy.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese occupation in 1959 and later founded the Tibetan government-in-exile in India.
He enjoys a good reputation in Lithuania, having been among the first public figures to welcome the Baltic state's independence in 1990 after a half-century of Soviet rule.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite met privately with him on Wednesday, calling it an "honour" and risking China's ire.
He wraps up the four-day visit, during which he also visited parliament, on Saturday.