The Karmapa Lama, one of Tibet's top Buddhist monks and widely seen as a potential spiritual successor to the Dalai Lama, spoke out Monday against allegations that he was a Chinese spy.
"Let me categorically state that I am not a Chinese spy, agent or plant in India," the 26-year-old Karmapa, who fled Tibet in 1999 at the age of 14, told reporters in New Delhi.
Earlier this year, the Indian media, quoting unnamed security sources, reported concerns that the Karmapa Lama could be a Chinese stooge sent to India to set up pro-Chinese monasteries.
The allegations surfaced after Indian authorities found more than ê1 million in foreign cash, including Chinese yuan, stashed at the Gyuto monastery where the Karmapa lives.
The Karmapa's staff said he had organised the rare press conference in Delhi to try and clear the air.
Indian officials were reported to have suspected Beijing's links with the Karmapa ever since his escape from Tibet, believing that his flight over the Himalayas at such a tender age would have required Chinese collusion.
"It has been very saddening to have faced such allegations," the Karmapa told reporters.
"There cannot be a greater blasphemy than these false, very hurtful allegations."
The Karmapa lives in Dharamshala, the northern Indian hill town that is the base of the Tibetan government-in-exile and home to the Dalai Lama.
He is seen as having the highest profile of a cast of young lamas who might fill the void when the Dalai Lama, now 75, dies.
The Karmapa's general secretary Karma Chungyalpa told the news conference the money found in the Gyuto monastery totalled 60 million rupees (ê1.4 million) and the funds were "offerings by devotees" from around the world.