Michael Probst, Associated Press
The Dalai Lama is seen after his arrival in Frankfurt, central Germany, Thursday. The Dalai Lama landed in Frankfurt on Thursday to start a five-day tour of Germany, where his last visit sent German-Chinese relations into a spiral.

FRANKFURT, Germany — The Dalai Lama criticized China's suppression of unrest in Tibet and insisted Thursday that the region — with its diverse heritage and rich traditions — wants to live in peace with its neighbor under genuine autonomy.

"We are not seeking independence," the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said at the start of a five-day visit to Germany. "Since we have a multicultural heritage and rich Buddhist tradition, we need genuine autonomy."

But he criticized China's approach toward unrest in Tibet and its sympathizers elsewhere in the country.

"Demonstrations are happening in Tibet and China and some are suppressed, which is very sad," he said.

The Dalai Lama said his visit was aimed at promoting human values and religious harmony.

"I've had a close friendship with the German people, and I'd like to inform and explain about the state of affairs in Tibet on my trip," he said, noting that he has been visiting the country since 1973.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said Tibet and China shared a "universal heritage" and acknowledged Germans' concern about recent unrest in Tibet.

He said he is hopeful of common ground in future talks between Tibetan leaders and China's government.

"Hopefully there will be more seriousness about this in our meetings so eventually some constructive understanding can take place," he said.

Roland Koch, governor of Hesse state, welcomed the Dalai Lama and said that while Germany was happy the Olympic Games are taking place in China, it still has questions about China's human rights record.

He said Germany has had a long relationship with China and that a "certain courage to change" is necessary to help the Tibetan issue — but won't come easily.

Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the Dalai Lama in September in the Berlin chancellery — an encounter that underlined her willingness to publicly address awkward issues with China but also exposed strains in her left-right governing coalition. Her decision to host the spiritual leader infuriated Beijing, which canceled several meetings between German and Chinese officials.

China — which claims Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries — routinely protests meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama. China has ruled the Himalayan region with a heavy hand since its communist-led forces invaded Tibet in 1959.

Protests against Chinese rule began in March in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Events turned violent four days later, touching off demonstrations by Tibetans and their supporters in three neighboring provinces — and around the world.

Merkel currently is in Latin America and will not meet with the Dalai Lama, officials said.

Merkel spokesman Thomas Steg dismissed suggestions that the government was avoiding a meeting with the religious leader. He said Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul would meet the Dalai Lama on Monday.

The Dalai Lama will meet also another state governor from Merkel's conservative party as well as the president of Germany's parliament. He is to give a series of lectures culminating in an address Monday in front of Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate.