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HH-Parague-2013Dharamshala: - The spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama Monday, September 16 said "China is a huge nation with an important role to play in the world, but in order to play that role it needs the world's trust."

His Holiness is in Prague at the invitation of the Forum 2000 Foundation established by his old friend President Vaclav Havel.

"Trade relations are important and the Chinese want to be part of the world economic community. However, that does not mean that other countries should not stand firm on matters of principle like human rights," His Holiness told journalists from Hospodárské noviny, the largest Czech newspaper.

"A closed society constrained by censorship doesn't earn that trust. No matter how powerful it may be, China must follow the world trend towards democracy and freedom of information," His Holiness said.

He said that in his travels he is more concerned with engaging with the public than meeting political leaders.

Regarding Tibet, His Holiness reiterated its ecological importance in Asia, its role as the Third Pole, but pointed out that although policy may change tomorrow, damage to the environment can take decades to recover.

When journalists asked about the effects of his visits on, for example, the Czech Republic's trade with China he acknowledged the importance of business, pointing out that when the USA was deliberating on whether to grant China Most Favoured Nation status, he was in favour, because we should not try to isolate a nation of 1.3 billion people.

Nobel Peace Laureate said he hoped the new leader Xi Jinping would continue to work for harmony among the Chinese people and among the minority nationalities. However, the use of force and intimidation goes counter to this. The Buddhist leader has also mentioned that Xi Jinping has launched a courageous movement to tackle corruption and that many of his friends say he has a more realistic way of thinking.

Asked his view of prospective reforms in China he answered that it’s too early to say. He noted that prior to 1949 China was in a difficult situation and that the Communists brought about a renewed identity and leadership. He referred to four distinct eras in China’s development since then, noting that the same party and the same system had shown an ability to adjust to new realities.

To a question about what a political leader needs to be considered successful he had a simple, succinct reply; "the people's trust."

His Holiness expressed a wish to visit Havel's office to pay his respects. When he asked if they had anything bearing President Havel's own handwriting a signed copy was found of his last play 'Leaving', which Dagmar Havlova presented to His Holiness.

After visiting President Havel's office His Holiness drove to the Zofin Palace where this year's Forum 2000 Conference is taking place.

Among many friends in the room His Holiness greeted blind Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng as he entered. He was welcomed with warm applause and introduced to the gathering by Jacques Rupnik, who remarked that as His Holiness was President Havel's last visitor it was appropriate that he should make the opening address to the conference he founded.

"Respected brothers and sisters, as a long time friend of President Havel's I feel it a great honour to participate in a meeting that he began. I would like to tell you that I have just come from the office where our last meeting took place. I have made something of a practice of paying tribute to friends in this way," said His Holiness.

"After first President of Independent India, Rajendra Prasad passed away I visited his apartment in Patna to pay my respects. I likewise went to Pandit Nehru, India's first Prime Minister's house after he died and I remember noticing the small Buddhist text and his Rolex watch that he kept beside his bed," he added.

"This time I went to President Havel's place with feelings of sadness that this humble, honest, truthful person is no more. But, although he is physically no longer with us, his spirit remains and we have a responsibility to continue his work,' His Holiness said.

The spiritual leader said he considers himself just one of the 7 billion human beings alive today, nothing special. "As human beings we are physically, mentally and emotionally the same. We all want a happy life and don't look for trouble, and yet many of the problems we face are of our own creation."

His Holiness said that "If we rely on our basic human feelings of affection we can overcome these problems. We need to have a sense of the oneness of humanity. We have to look at things on a human level and remember that just as we want to live a happy life, others do too."

His Holiness said that despite our increasing interdependence, our insistent emphasis on 'them' and 'us' becomes the basis for war and violence. Yet the notion of completely eliminating your enemy, to overcome 'them', is obsolete, out of date. His Holiness commented that while his generation belongs to the twentieth century, young people today belong to the twenty-first.

Despite its many developments, the twentieth century was a century of violence and bloodshed. Young people of the present century have the opportunity to create a new world, and although he may not live to see it, His Holiness jokingly suggested that from heaven or hell he will be keeping an eye on how they are doing.

His Holiness also has met Nobel laureate and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and human rights activist Chen Guangchen on the sidelines of the human rights conference in Prague.

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