BRUSSELS (AFP) — China lacks the moral authority, including over the question of Tibet, to be a true superpower, the Dalai Lama said Thursday during a European tour that has angered Beijing.
After addressing the EU parliament in Brussels, the Tibetan spiritual leader said China "deserves to be a superpower" given its huge population and economic and military strength.
"Now one important factor is moral authority and that is lacking," he told a press conference in Brussels.
"Because of its very poor record on human rights and religious freedom and freedom of expression and freedom of the press -- too much censorship -- the image of China in the field of moral authority is very, very poor," he said.
"The sensible Chinese realize China should now pay more attention in this field in order to get more respect from the rest of the world," the Nobel peace laureate said.
He cited the problems of Tibet and separatist factions in the southwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang as areas where such a moral authority should be displayed. He also named Hong Kong and reunification with Taiwan.
He said he continued to have confidence in the Chinese people while doubting the government wanted serious talks on Tibet's future.
Earlier, the Dalai Lama addressed the European Parliament during his second day in the Belgian capital, where he was greeted by loud applause.
Some MEPs even displayed a Tibetan flag.
The chamber's president, Hans-Gert Poettering, assured that the parliament would "continue to defend the rights of the Tibetan people to their cultural and religious identity."
He called on Chinese leaders to hold meaningful talks with representatives of the exiled Dalai Lama.
On Saturday, the Dalai Lama will meet in Poland with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
That meeting has particularly angered Beijing and the Chinese government has taken the unprecedented decision to call off an EU summit which was due to be held in France this week.
Beijing objects to foreign leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama, who it maintains is trying to win independence for his Himalayan homeland that has been under Chinese rule since 1951.
The Buddhist leader, who insists he only wants meaningful autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule, and other Nobel Peace Prize laureates were invited to Gdansk to celebrate the 25 years since Poland's Lech Walesa won the award.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has sought "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet since he fled his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.
China claims he actually seeks full independence.
"We are not 'splittists', but the Chinese government still accuses us of being 'splittists'," he said.