OSLO, Norway -- The dalai lama, Tibet's exiled god-king who has advocated non-violent struggle against Chinese domination of his homeland, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1989, Nobel officials announced Thursday.
China immediately accused the Nobel Committee of meddling in China's internal affairs in making the award, which observers had predicted would go to Czech dissidents or to democracy movements in the Soviet Baltic states.
'The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the prize to the 14th dalai lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the religious and political leader of the Tibetan people,' said Nobel Peace Committee Chairman Egil Aarvik.
Aarvik said the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave the dalai lama, 54, the prize for 'opposing the use of violence in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet.'
'He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people,' the chairman said.
The dalai lama, who lives in exile in India, was in Newport Beach, Calif., to attend the international East-West Conference for world peace when the award was announced at 6 a.m. EDT. He is staying at the home of catsup heir Clifford Heinz and did not learn of the award until about two hours later from two aides.
'Frankly speaking, there was not much of a reaction,' Tenzin Geyche Tethong, secretary to the dalai lama, told United Press International by telephone. 'His holiness was not overly excited, but he feels greatly honored at the awarding of the prize to him as a recognition of his efforts for peace and understanding during the last three decades.
'He also feels this is a recognition of the Tibetan peoples' struggle freedom through peaceful means,' said the secretary.
The dalai lama was to meet with reporters later in the day.
Another spokesman, Lodi Gyari, explained at 7:15 a.m. EDT why the spiritual leader at that point had not learned of the award: 'To be very frank, we have yet to inform his holiness because he is still in prayer.'
The dalai lama has been a peace prize candidate for eight years and Geyche said, 'In a way he doesn't consider receiving the award by itself as important because he considers what he does more important.'
The dalai lama considers everyone who seeks peace to be a peacemaker and 'he doesn't consider himself extraordinary or particularly deserving of the award,' he said.
At the Chinese Embassy in Oslo, spokesman Wang Guisheng called the award 'a clear interference in the internal affairs of China.'
'The dalai lama is not only a religious leader, but an exiled political figure who is carrying on political efforts to try and split the fatherland and undermine national unity,' Wang said.
But Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg said he hoped the award would help the dalai lama.
'The dalai lama's work to save his people's historical and cultural identity, and his message of non-violent understanding has inspired others to follow these ideals,' Stoltenberg said.
Aarvik said the dalai lama developed his philosophy of peace from 'a great reverence for all things living.'
'In the opinion of the committee, the dalai lama has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues and global environment patterns,' Aarvik said.
Born July 6, 1935, to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet, the dalai lama was 'recognized' at age 2 as the 14th in a series of god-kings to rule his native land. But he never exercised full sovereignty over the Himalayan 'roof of the world.'
The spiritual leader of the largest of the Tibetan Buddhist communities maintains his claim to the position of head of state in Tibet despite his exile in India.
At age 5 in 1940, he was brought to the capital Lhasa to be installed in the position of dalai lama of Tibet, but the country was ruled by a regent while he underwent his education and initiation.
By 1950, Chinese troops had crossed the border into Tibet, claiming the country constituted Chinese territory. The claim was hotly denied by Tibet, which said it had severed all ties with China after the fall of the last Chinese emperor in 1912.
In 1954, the young dalai lama traveled to Beijing for meetings with Chairman Mao Tse-tung. His visit lasted almost a year.
Norway's Nobel Committee said upon his return, the position in Tibet had 'seriously deteriorated.'
'Chinese infringements of established Tibetan rights were growing even more brutal and were in particular directed against the numerous monks and monasteries. The dalai lama fought to the utmost to play the role of mediator,' the Nobel Committee said.
In 1956, a revolt erupted in eastern Tibet and in subsequent years, continuous fighting took place between Chinese regulars and Tibetan guerillas.
The Nobel committee said by 1959 the conflict in Lhasa had escalated to a point when the dalai lama found he had no choice but to escape to India, where he was offered political asylum,' the committee added.
He settled in Dharamsala in the Himalayas and formed a government in exile. Some 100,000 Tibetans accompanied him to India and he has continued to exercise his religious functions in exile.
By the end of the 1960s, the dalai lama had traveled extensively to the West to mobilize support for Tibetan independence.