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Dalai Lama ducks question on monk self-immolations

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Mon May 14, 2012
  • NEW: The Dalai Lama says he does not want to politicize a prize ceremony
  • "No answer," Tibet's spiritual leader says when asked directly about the protests
  • More than 30 people set themselves on fire last year over China's occupation, advocates say
  • The Dalai Lama is in London to accept a $1.77 million prize

London (CNN) -- The Dalai Lama refused to answer a question Monday about whether Tibetan monks should stop setting themselves on fire to protest China's occupation of Tibet.

"No answer," he said.

"I think that this is quite a sensitive political issue," the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist community said.

Self-immolation is becoming an increasingly common form of protest for Tibetans who want genuine autonomy from China and accuse Beijing of repression. More than 30 of them took place in the last year in China, Tibetan advocacy groups say.

Dalai Lama: China belongs to the people

The Dalai Lama was speaking in London, where he is accepting the Templeton Prize.

He said he did not want to manipulate or politicize the event.

"Last year, I retired from political responsibility," he said.

The Dalai Lama broke with four centuries of Tibetan tradition by separating the political aspect of his role from the spiritual one, he explained. He handed over political leadership of the Tibetan community to an elected prime minister in 2011.

The Templeton Prize, an award worth £1.1 million ($1.77 million), honors "outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality."

The Dalai Lama will give $1.5 million to the aid organization Save the Children, he said.

He is giving another $200,000 of the prize money to the Mind & Life Institute, and $75,000 to his own monastic community.

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