The Dalai Lama will visit Mongolia this week, Buddhist leaders said Thursday, potentially sparking an angry response from China. Davaapurev, a monk at the Gandan monastery in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader’s four-day visit starting Friday is for purely religious purposes. He is to receive an honorary degree, take part in religious observances and hold meetings with academics and representatives of the nation’s youth, said Davaapurev, who is organising the visit. No word was given on any meetings with political figures. The visit is “separate from politics and for religious purposes only,” Davaapurev said. China, landlocked Mongolia’s giant southern neighbour, accuses the head of Tibetan Buddhism of seeking independence for Tibet and routinely objects to his overseas travels. Beijing has in past used the Mongolian economy’s heavy dependence on trade with China as leverage, cutting off rail links and disrupting air travel during a visit by the Dalai Lama in 2006. Countering Dalai Lama influence is China’s top ethnic priority in Tibet Mongolian Buddhism is closely tied to Tibet’s strain and traditionally reveres the Dalai Lama as a leading spiritual figure. However, the abbot of the rival Ikh Khuree monastery, Sanjdorj Zandan, criticised the visit as interference in Mongolia’s internal affairs and said it appeared the Dalai Lama planned to name the new head of Mongolian Buddhism. Davaapurev denied any such appointment would be made. Tibetan Buddhist leaders are recognised as the reincarnations of their predecessors and their appointments can be major sources of controversy. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, made the first of his eight visits to Mongolia in 1979, when the country was still under Communist rule.