SIDBHARI, India, Apr. 27 (AP)--A teenage Tibetan monk who fled Chinese-controlled Tibet last year denied on Friday that his escape was influenced by anyone, apparently responding to allegations that he was a Chinese protege.

"The decision to leave my homeland, monastery, monks, parents, family, and the Tibetan people was entirely my own. No one told me to go and no one asked me to come," Ugyen Thinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, said in a statement issued ahead of his first news conference.

The Karmapa is one of the highest-ranking monks in Tibetan Buddhism, and the only senior lama to be recognized by both Beijing and the exiled Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama.

His critics and senior Indian security officials claim he is an agent of the Chinese government, speculation that the Dalai Lama has criticized.

The Karmapa arrived in Dharmsala, the northern Indian home of the Tibetan government-in-exile, in January 2000 after an 875-mile (1,408-kilometer) journey through the snowbound Himalayas.

Indian officials say his escape was aided by Chinese authorities, who helped him clear the rugged and heavily guarded frontier to India through Nepal in only eight days.

The Karmapa heads the Karma Kagyu sect and is considered by his followers to be the reincarnation of his predecessor.

The teenage monk spent 13 months restricted to monasteries near Dharmsala until Indian officials granted him refugee status last month.

The Karmapa also said on Friday that he was eager to visit Rumtek, in the northeastern state of Sikkim, where the traditional seat of the Karmapa is located in a remote Buddhist monastery.

"Going to the Rumtek monastery would be like returning home to continue the activity of my predecessor. This is why I consider it so important," the Karmapa said.

India has refused him permission to travel to Rumtek, and a senior Indian security official said in New Delhi on Friday that permission was unlikely. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 16th Karmapa brought his crown with him when he fled Chinese-ruled Tibet in 1959 and deposited it in his monastery at Rumtek, in what was then the Buddhist kingdom of Sikkim. The previous Karmapa died in 1981.

The Karmapa said he urged Indian authorities to let him travel abroad.

"I am also confident that just as my predecessor did, I will be able to travel abroad to meet my numerous disciples," he said. "I have submitted an application to the proper authorities."

He also said that he was not going to engage in any political activity.

"I am preparing for my life's work: to teach and study Buddhism and to encourage compassion and wisdom within the hearts of all beings," he said.
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