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Tibet's Dalai Lama out of hospital: 'nothing serious'

The Tibetan exile leader, 73, has only a pinched nerve. But China's government, which considers him an obstacle to its control, watches even minor changes in his health closely.

February 03, 2009|Mark Magnier

NEW DELHI — The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, was hospitalized here Monday after complaining of discomfort in his arm, aides said. He was released a few hours later after a series of tests.

The 73-year-old leader was diagnosed with a pinched nerve caused by a slipped disc, said Tenzin Taklha, an aide, who added, "The doctors said it was nothing serious."

Aides said the Dalai Lama was expected to resume his schedule, which includes a trip to Germany and Italy this week and then a tour of southern India.

This is the latest in a series of recent health irritants for the Dalai Lama. He was admitted to the hospital in August with abdominal pain and underwent successful gallstone surgery two months later.

The Chinese government, which views the Dalai Lama as a political threat to its control over Tibet, tracks his health closely. But it has adopted a waiting-game strategy, some analysts said, hoping his eventual death will solidify its rule and end decades of periodic unrest in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and surrounding areas.

"Whenever there is such news, China feels very happy," said Vijay Kranti, editor of Tibbat Desh, a newspaper for the Tibetan community in India. "But they are not fighting with a person, they are fighting with a timeless institution. They should be doing something to solve the problem of the Tibetan people within the Dalai Lama's lifetime."

China, which occupied Tibet in 1950, has poured billions of dollars into the region for schools, roads, rail links and other infrastructure and bristles at any suggestion that Tibet is not an inalienable part of China. Beijing's belief that Tibetans should be grateful for such contributions left the leadership all the more shocked by the scope and intensity of anti-China riots that broke out last March across ethnic Tibetan territories.

In response, Beijing has launched a major crackdown, travel bans and various "reeducation" campaigns.

The Chinese leadership has shown particular anger toward the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of masterminding the unrest. In recent weeks, China's state-run press has stepped up long-standing accusations that he favors feudal serfdom for Tibetans and is out to spoil their economic prosperity.

The issue of Tibet's status continues to plague China on the international stage, with protesters dogging Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in recent days during his visit to Britain. Five pro-Tibet demonstrators were arrested for disturbing the peace outside the Chinese Embassy in London on Sunday, and another protester threw his shoe at the premier during an appearance at Cambridge University on Monday.

There was no immediate reaction from Beijing on the latest health woes of the Dalai Lama. But Kranti warned that China's strategy of trying to outwait the Dalai Lama may be shortsighted.

The Dalai Lama "has very slowly but decisively created a parallel system that can stand without him," he said, citing the self-declared Tibetan parliament and elected prime minister in exile. "If China thinks he could die and all their problems are over, they have lost their rationality."

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mark.magnier@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Janet Stobart in London contributed to this report.

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