The Dalai Lama urged Japanese lawmakers Tuesday to visit Tibet to find out the reasons for a spate of self-immolations, after Beijing accused him of instigating the deadly protests against Chinese rule.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was addressing around 130 parliamentarians including Shinzo Abe, a former premier and the recently re-elected leader of the main opposition.
"I request some parliamentary groups, 'Visit Tibet'," including areas where Tibetans have died in "very sad" self-immolations, the Dalai Lama told the meeting in Japan's diet, or parliament.
"Perhaps the (Chinese) authorities, leaders of China, I think, may get the true picture" of self-immolations if foreign lawmakers report what is actually happening there, the 77-year-old added.
Two Tibetans died in separate self-immolations Monday, taking to nine the number of people who have set themselves on fire in the last week in protest at Chinese rule.
Reports of their deaths came hours after the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese government seriously to investigate the incidents, saying it is more interested in criticising him than finding the reason behind them.
In response, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei accused the spiritual leader Monday of encouraging the suicides.
"It is against the national laws of China and Buddhist doctrines and the Dalai Lama is instigating these people to take this path of no return," Hong told a regular briefing.
"And he is trying to sacrifice other people's lives to achieve his goal of Tibetan independence and what he has done should be severely condemned."
Hong also accused the Dalai Lama, who denies he seeks Tibetan independence, of colluding with Japanese right-wing anti-China forces through his comments in Japan.
The immolations have gained pace in recent months in the run-up to the Communist Party congress, which started on Thursday in Beijing.
Ahead of the Dalai Lama's speech, Abe, the frontrunner in the race to become prime minister in upcoming general elections, called on fellow lawmakers to use diplomatic means to help stop the immolations.
"I promise to continue to support Tibet and do my best to change the situation in Tibet in which (people) are oppressed," the hawkish conservative said.
The lawmakers adopted a statement strongly urging China to improve its "unlawful suppression of human rights against Tibetans and Uighurs".
Tokyo formally recognises Beijing's position that Tibet is a part of China and the government bars its officials from meeting the Dalai Lama during his frequent visits.
But China criticises Japan for allowing the visits, which it says give the saffron-robed monk a platform for views it considers unacceptable.
Abe's stance will likely come under scrutiny for its possible implications for Sino-Japanese relations, already strained by a row over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]