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Connect the World

Dalai Lama Announces Plans to Step Down as Political Leader of Tibetan Exile Movement. Tale of Tennis Star's Whose Father Was Trapped Under Rubble in Haiti Earthquake. Connector of the Day Jessica Watson. Parting Shots of Slam Dunk on YouTube;. Libyan Government Forces Win Back Rebel-Held Areas; Interview with Anders Fogh Rasmussen; World Weighs Action in Libya; Fifty Days Until Royal Wedding

Aired March 10, 2011 - 16:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, GUEST HOST: Government forces in control -- Libya says it's taken Ras Lanuf after a day of ferocious attacks on rebel forces.

The son of the Libyan leader follows up with a chilling declaration -- we will never surrender.

CNN's Freedom Project getting answers. We'll tell you what the Indian government has to say about this video.

And a date has been set, invitations are out -- 50 days to go until royal wedding bells ring out in London.

These stories and more tonight as we connect the world.

First up, though, NATO warns time is of the essence, as Libyan forces strike deeper in the heart of insurgent territory, forcing rebels into retreat. Tanks, warplanes, even gunboats, attacked the eastern town of Ras Lanuf on Thursday after hours of fighting. State TV said the key oil port had been, quote, "cleansed".

Let's get right to Ben Wedeman for an update from the front lines -- ben, where have you been today and what have you seen?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we were in Ras Lanuf. And what we saw was an intense sea, air and ground bombardment of the town, really, a series of bombardments that went on for well over an hour, hitting, among other things, very close to the local hospital and one of the mosques where, according to eyewitnesses, one of the people inside was killed.

What we saw afterward was the anti-Gadhafi fighters really fleeing the -- the center of the town, joining up and regrouping at the checkpoint about eight kilometers to the east of the city. There, we were told by those fighters that just the bombardment was so intense and they really have no protection against it, that they had to move back.

Later in the day, we saw they were bringing -- the anti-Gadhafi forces were bringing more reinforcements in, including multiple launch -- rocket launchers.

But certainly, the itsy of today's bombardment on the town would make it very difficult for them to continue to hold onto the city.

At this point, we don't really know who is in control of Ras Lanuf. We're hearing different reports. But what we've seen is many of the anti- Gadhafi forces have essentially regrouped here, in the town of El Brega -- Max.

FOSTER: Ben, how important is Ras Lanuf?

Why are the Libyan government forces fighting so fiercely there?

WEDEMAN: Well, for -- for two reasons. For one thing, as long as the anti-government forces were moving westward, there was the threat that they might overtake the town of Sirt, which is a stronghold of Moammar Gadhafi, in addition to being his hometown. This town -- Ras Lanuf itself is important because there's a very large refinery and export facility there. There's also a very large airport. So whoever controls that town controls a lot of Libya's oil exports, as well as a strategic position to move forward to the east toward Benghazi -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Ben Wedeman, thank you very much, indeed, from there on the front lines in Libya.

One of Moammar Gadhafi's sons has a chilling message for the rebels -- Saif al-Islam says we're coming, warning them that government forces will soon be on the doorstep of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.


SAIF GADHAFI, MOAMMAR GADHAFI'S SON (through translator): I receive hundreds of calls from the east daily and they are stating, save us. They are begging us and pleading for us to save them. And my answer is two words -- listen to me, I want those armed groups to listen to me real well and I want the people in the east to hear this as well -- we are coming.


FOSTER: OK, we're going to speak to Nic Robertson now, who's -- who's been in Libya.

Those are incredibly strong words coming from Gadhafi's son.

What did you make of the resolve that he's showing right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, he was really speaking to his audience there. And this was a young audience. They were described to us as young workers. And he was rallying the troops. He told them sort of scare measure -- scare messages and tales of how the militias had been cutting out -- cutting off people's heads, cutting out people's hearts, bowling their hearts and then stamping on them.

This was all about revving up the young people. And by broadcasting this on state television, as well, not just the audience inside the tent where we were, who were really sort of a loud, fist pounding audience who jumped up every time -- every time there was something they heard that they liked.

So it wasn't just -- it wasn't just this message that he was coming, that he was staying -- that the forces will be coming to the east, but he was telling the audience how much they rejected -- how much they rejected - - or Libya rejects all the Arabs, he said, all those -- except those that have stood beside them.

He said -- and I won't use the expletive, to -- to those Arab TV stations and all -- and to the Arab League, we reject you.

So this was very much aimed at the audience and all about revving them up, because this country is slipping toward a longer war and wants the youth to be behind them -- Max.

FOSTER: And, Nic, so Gadhafi, I know, is someone that you've reported on quite widely over the years. You've followed him and you've reported on documentaries with him. You worked very closely with him. Give us a sense of how he's behaving right now and whether or not he feels nervous or whether he really is that confident.

ROBERTSON: It's hard to tell. You know, when he came in, this was an audience that -- he sort of stood up and took their adulation, which is sort of guaranteed in these situations, because these people are brought in because they're loyal -- and took it for about 10 minutes and then spent another 10 or 15 minutes even sort of trying to settle them down.

He is relatively quietly spoken, but once he got into his stride, he was well into it. This is a man who, back in 2006, had a reform agenda. It was blocked over the next few years by the -- by the sort of old guard, if you will, the internal security force who didn't trust his reforms. And as he told his audience today, in 2000 -- 2008, I walked away from this government. I walked away from what the government was trying to do. That was him giving up with his reforms.

But he said now I've come back because we need to be united. I need to stand with the nation. This is a fight and I need to be in it.

So he is back and on the side of his father. And this is -- this is not somebody who's trying to bring about reforms right now. He says they may come in the future. This is a man who is trying to rally history against international isolation, against the possibility of airstrikes, against a no fly -- a potential of a no fly zone, and again -- and about preparing them for a hard fight in the east of the country -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nic, thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Thanks for joining us from Libya, of course.

And NATO defense ministers met today to consider military action in Libya, including the creation of a no fly zone. NATO says it's united, vigilant, ready to act, if it first receives a clear mandate from the United Nations.

Here's how the permanent UN Security Council members stand on that issue. France and Britain are leading the charge. They've drafted a no fly resolution, but it hasn't come to a vote. The United States is more cautious, stressing that a no fly zone is an act of war that must have broad international support.

China and Russia, on the other hand, have opposed military action in Libya, although today Russia indicated a willingness to listen to proposals.

Our Phil Black talked earlier with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asking him how many lives must be lost before the world takes action.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Libya's rebels are asking for immediate international intervention. Today, NATO has offered them more planning.

At what point does the humanitarian argument become undeniable?

How many people have to die before NATO will act?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: I understand very well the frustration. Many people would like the international community to act. But I also have to say that we should be aware of sensitivities in -- in the region. There are a lot of reluctance in the region to see what they might consider an international military interference. And this is the reason why we have said we stand ready to assist if requested, if there is a need, if there is a clear legal basis and if there is a clear regional support.

BLACK: If not for the invasion of Iraq and the controversy that followed, would it be easier today to use military intervention to help the people of an oil rich Arab country like Libya?

RASMUSSEN: It has nothing to do with Iraq, but I think history has learned -- you know, from history, we have learned that we should be aware of local sensitivities.

BLACK: Has the Arab League told you they don't want this kind of intervention?

RASMUSSEN: They have not told us that they don't want it. But what we do need is a clear support from the region. We do need a clear legal basis before taking action. And, of course, we have to make sure that there is a strong need for our assistance and that we can add value.

BLACK: To what extent do you believe Libyan air power has been responsible in reversing the gains made by rebels?

RASMUSSEN: No doubt that the air force plays a role and it is absolutely outrageous, what we are witnessing.

BLACK: Humanitarian concerns aside, given that you're now dealing with the prospect of a failed state in your own backyard, why isn't NATO acting faster?

RASMUSSEN: It is a matter of concern and there is a clear risk that all this might end up in a failed state that could be a breeding ground for extremism and a terrorist network.

So, of course it is a matter of concern. But again, we -- we must be aware of sensitivities in the regions as regards what might be considered foreign military intervention. And this is the reason why we have to ensure that any NATO operational action is based on a clear UN mandate.


FOSTER: As Libyan rebels struggle on the battlefield, their international standing is gaining ground. France has become the first country to formally recognize the opposition as Libya's legitimate representative. President Nicholas Sarkozy met with rebel envoys on Thursday in Paris. The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on the E.U. to follow France's lead.

Russia's foreign minister, meanwhile, is warning against foreign meddling in Libya. But Moscow is taking steps to disarm Gadhafi's regime. It has banned all Russian weapons sales to Libya, effectively canceling billions of dollars worth of contracts.

The United States, for its part, is moving to shut down the Libyan embassy in Washington. But it stopped short of formally breaking diplomatic relations.

And concern is growing in Malta about an influx of Libyan refugees. Malta is the closest European Union member to Libya.

I talked with the country's foreign minister, who says the refugee crisis is a problem for all of Europe.


TONIO BORG, MALTESE FOREIGN MINISTER: I think there should be reference in the conclusions of the Libyan Council tomorrow that there should be burden sharing. Now, when you mention burden sharing in Europe, it raises some eyebrows, particularly amongst some states. But I am confident that this time around, there will be more solidarity for that to happen.

This problem cannot be left to the border states. It is a European problem. And therefore, it should be shared among all European states.

It won't be an easy task. But I think we can manage to persuade our member states in Europe to carry the burden, as well.


FOSTER: Well, as the world weighs a response to the Libyan civil war, it's important to remember, it's not no fly or nothing. There are all sorts of military options.

Let's bring in Stephen Flanagan, a senior vice president with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He's also worked for the U.S. State Department and National Security Council.

He's the real expert on this issue.

First of all, Stephen, why are we only talking about a no fly zone?

And how did that start in the first place?


Actually, the first step NATO is talking about is humanitarian assistance. And that NATO does have some capacity and is moving into a situation where they could provide that.

But beyond that, in terms of a military action that would have some impact on the conflict on the ground, the no fly zone is the one that most members of the alliance seem comfortable with. Certainly, President Sarkozy and others have suggested that they move forward on that.

But they want to -- I think the U.S. position is to try to build support within a broader element of the international community, particularly some of the members of the Security Council, who could veto a UN resolution.

FOSTER: It's not very simple, though, is it, the no fly zone, as we've learned over recent weeks, because it doesn't just work on its own. You have to follow up with ground troops, don't you?

FLANAGAN: Well, that would certainly be the implication, is that the notion is -- first of all, it would take some time to do an assessment and to begin to neutralize the Libyan air defense system, which is not insignificant. It's a -- it's a fairly modern system, mobile. You'd have to attack command and control capabilities and various sites that are -- that -- so it wouldn't be just a matter of -- of one week and saying, well, the Libyan air space is under NATO control.

So that's -- that's one issue.

But there -- there is also the question of generating the political support for that. And then the question of, OK, well, let's say, I mean right now, the main military actions are -- are conventional forces against the lightly armed rebel groups. And -- and so a -- banning airstrikes might not -- and particularly when you hear Gadhafi's sons' discussions of "we're coming" -- if they're coming in tanks and trucks and other things that they have at their disposal in the Libyan military, a NATO -- a NATO no fly zone isn't going to necessarily impact the ground -- the ground war.

FOSTER: So what are the other military operations they'll be considering right now in those boardrooms where they're discussing all of this?

FLANAGAN: Well, I -- I think that the -- what -- what NATO did agree to was to enhance -- first of all, NATO does have some standing maritime presence in the Mediterranean right now. It's a counter-terrorism mission, actually, that's gone on since 9/11 that there is -- there are some ships there.

Admiral Stavridis, the commander of NATO, has been given authority to look at additional planning, to increase NATO's understanding of what's going on in the region.

They've also put the NATO airborne command aircraft, the so-called AWACS aircraft, on a 24 hour schedule, so that they could be available to get additional information on the air picture over Libya.

So NATO is beginning to put into place some of the pieces it would need to act. But the -- the defense ministers said they wanted to have further study about the issue of affecting a no fly zone, because that would involve, as the U.S. has pointed out, essentially a declaration of war or a hostile military action against Libya.

FOSTER: We heard from Ben Wedeman earlier, who's been in Ras Lanuf, that, actually, the rebels are being outgunned by the Gadhafi forces -- the Gadhafi-supported forces.

Isn't it an option for Western powers to go in and give the rebels the weapons they need?

Why isn't that going on?

Where's the sensitivity there?

FLANAGAN: Well, no -- no, you're absolutely right. I mean the discussion has been -- Russia has said, others have said we're trying to clamp down on the arms in -- getting into Libya. But there is that question. And this is an issue that came up during many of the Balkan conflicts, the notion of equip and maybe even train the -- the rebel forces. That could certainly be an option down -- down the road, particularly if -- if the military situation comes to a standstill.

But -- but the big thing NATO has to be worried about, as we heard from the Maltese and others, is however this comes out, there's going to be a huge refugee problem, both into North Africa and potentially into Southern Europe.

And so NATO is going to be the -- the military -- have the military capacity and the organizational capacity that countries are going to look to to be able to deal with this. And so that's another issue that NATO also has to keep in mind.

FOSTER: OK, Stephen Flanagan, thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Well, do stay with CNN for all the latest breaking news out of Libya and analysis.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, though, in just 50 days, the eyes of the world will be on this church and the wedding of the year. My tour of a truly remarkable building, up next.


FOSTER: Working to pay off a debt she may one day inherit -- we'll be looking at the practice of forced labor and why it's becoming India's modern-day slavery.

We'll also have the government reaction to this issue a little later in the show.

I'm Max Foster in London.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

And here's a look at some of the other stories that we're following this hour.

Under pressure from ongoing protests, Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has pledged to bring a new constitution to a vote by the end of the year and transfer power to an elected parliamentary system. Mr. Saleh refuses to step down, but says he will not run against -- run again in the next election. Opposition leaders and human rights advocates say the government moves are too little too late.

Ivory Coast's incumbent president has rejected an African Union proposal aimed at ending the political crisis in that country. Lauren Gbagbo, seen here, was -- or has refused to give up power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized by the international community as the winner of November's presidential election. Human rights groups have warned the West African nation is sliding back into a bloody civil war.

The U.S. president has spoken of being bullied as a child and why he's trying to dispel the myth that it's just part of growing up. Barack and Michelle Obama have been hosting their first ever White House conference on bullying prevention. It follows a string of highly publicized suicide cases where teens killed themselves over alleged harassment and bullying at school and over the Internet.

Well, the invites are out and the countdown is on. There are just 50 days to go until Britain's much anticipated royal wedding. It is set to be a truly spectacular affair, all taking place in a church where monarchs have been crowned for almost 1,000 years.

Here's a little look inside London's Westminster Abbey.



FOSTER (voice-over): If Britishness can, in part, be defined by its royalty, then this church is as British as they come. Westminster Abbey is what's called a royal peculiar, that is, it comes under the jurisdiction not to the church, but of the queen herself. She was crowned here, as were all heads of states going back to 1066.

Prince William's uncle, Andrew, was married here. And William walked here to mourn the loss of his mother, Diana. His memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey.

(on-camera): The couple told an aide that they chose Westminster Abbey not just because of its thousand year royal history, but also because of its staggering beauty. But once you're in here, you really do get a sense of what they're talking about.

(voice-over): Elaborate moldings, decorate arches and columns holding up a towering vaulted ceiling. Kate will likely be aware of how the long single narrow aisle was designed to help make the space feel even bigger.

(on-camera): Once she's inside the church, Katherine will come through the choir screen there with her father, past the choir stalls, where the choir will be standing. And we expect her to come up here, to the high altar, where she will meet William and be married.

SARAH HAYWOOD, WEDDING PLANNER: A cheer will go up, as well, of course, when they both said, "I do," and he proclaims them husband and wife, I suspect they will hear the cheer outside. And maybe that's the moment for them to acknowledge that, around the world, people have been watching with them. And I would imagine even the most cynical among us, surely, when you see a couple exchanging their wedding vows, your heart does melt a little bit.

(voice-over): Westminster Abbey is a church steeped in British history. But for William, and soon Kate, that also means family history. Their wedding will be a personal event in the most public of settings.


FOSTER: Well, coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, an important announcement from this famous spirit leader. Find out what he's up to in just a moment.

Trapped by debt and forced into labor -- it may be illegal but it's still going on. Our special investigation continues into modern-day slavery. We're back in India for the government's reaction on this controversial issue.


FOSTER: Deception, coercion, exploitation -- this is the trade in human life. It's our launch week of the CNN Freedom Project. And over the course of a year, we aim to shed light on the victims, expose the perpetrators and meet those who fight to end modern-day slavery.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime says human trafficking is a criminal enterprise worth more than $32 billion.

There are an estimated 10 to 30 million slaves in the world today. A U.S. State Department report says 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across borders every year. Of those, more than 70 percent are female, and half of those forced into slavery across borders are children.

In India, our Sara Sidner has been investigating a type of slavery known as forced labor. It can span entire villages, with some families working for generations to pay off minor debt.

Here's a clip from the first of her series on the vicious cycle of debt bondage.



SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An army of brick makers heaving, stacking, balancing bricks and more bricks from sunup to sundown. But these laborers take home no wage. They are working off a debt.

They are bonded laborers, bound to those who gave them an advance or a loan. Human rights activists say the practice is legal and call them India's modern slaves.

"I cannot leave here unless I pay my debt." Durgawati tells me she has no idea when that will be.

(on camera): The workers here tell us, generally, here's how it works. The contractor shows up promising them work and giving them a little advance money. Then, they're tractored in from their far off villages to a place they've never been to and they're told when they get here that they have to work off their loan and they will not be paid any wages. They're also told they have to live here so the supervisors can keep an eye on them.


FOSTER: Well, Sara put this story to the Indian government.

She tells us now what they had to say about bonded labor.

SIDNER: India's secretary of labor and employment pointed out to us that a law has existed on the books for nearly 35 years that outlaws bonded labor. But he wasn't at all surprised when we showed him our story that in clear, broad daylight, there they were -- people who were stuck in this life. And he admitted that there is a serious problem in this country.


SIDNER: That's the story.

Did anything in that story surprise you?

PRABHAT C. CHATURVDEI, INDIAN LABOR SECRETARY: Well, we are aware of the problem of bonded labor and also the problem of child labor in this country, the problem that you just. The story that you are doing relates to bonded labor as well as children working in the (INAUDIBLE).

SIDNER: Would you call this modern-day slavery, this bonded labor?

CHATURVDEI: Certainly not. It is not slavery. As I said, it is a problem of poverty.

SIDNER: But don't you -- these people say that they have been enslaved...


SIDNER: -- they have no other option. They are beaten. They are not paid. They are hungry, some of them.


SIDNER: Doesn't that sound like slavery to you?

CHATURVDEI: I would never use the word slave.


CHATURVDEI: No. I mean bonded labor is for a particular period. After whatever -- for whatever period they have come to (INAUDIBLE) doesn't work for the entire year. You go back...

SIDNER: But some of these people say they're on this landowner's land for generations. They've never been able to leave.

CHATURVDEI: I cannot argue on this. But as I said, I would certainly not like to bracket this as slavery or something like that.

SIDNER: You don't think that's the proper word for it?

CHATURVDEI: Certainly not. Certainly not.

SIDNER: The law has been enacted but the complaint is that the government just doesn't enforce the law.

Why isn't there better enforcement?

CHATURVDEI: Certainly, this kind of allegation is there. But I would like to submit that this -- we are very, very conscious and the district administrations are very, very conscious about this bonded labor problem. And they are very proactive and as soon as they receive any information, they do take action. They...

SIDNER: But we were able to see people literally on the side of the street. You didn't have to go searching. You could literally see the problem. And people would tell you.


SIDNER: So why can't they stop it?

CHATURVDEI: You see, one problem -- one issue is that you detect bonded labor then prosecute the owner of that particular industry. Our experience has been that only law and its enforcement is not going to solve this issue because bonded labor, the real cause of bonded labor, or child labor, for that matter, is poverty.

So we have to eradicate poverty.


SIDNER: But that is obviously going to prove to be very difficult and take a very long time, because India happens to have the majority of the world's poor. It is estimated about 300 million people live on less than $2 a day and some of those people are forced into this life.

Now, the government does have some numbers that are quite interesting. Since the law was passed more than 30 years ago, there have been about 290,000 people that have been rescued from bonded labor. The government says they are, no, not proud of those numbers, because there shouldn't even have to be one rescued.

Sara Sidner, CNN, New Delhi.


MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Well, to find out more about this CNN initiative, do go to There, you can access extensive resources, including more stories and videos on modern-day slavery. And you can also take a stand by participating in our iReport Freedom Project Challenge.

Up next, stepping aside for a new generation. The Dalai Lama gets ready to step down as political leader of the Tibetan government in exile. China's reaction to what the future holds, that's coming up right here on CONNECT THE WORLD.


FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, a spiritual leader who's also a bit of a rock star. The Dalai Lama has traveled the world, meeting world leaders and Hollywood stars. Up next, why he's stepping out of the spotlight.

Plus, a rising young tennis star, but just over a year ago, her mind wasn't on the court at all. Her father was trapped under the rubble of Haiti's massive earthquake. We'll bring you that story, next.

And we connect you with a young Australian who made history as the youngest person to sail around the world. Find out about Jessica Watson's next treacherous challenge at sea.

All those stories ahead in the show for you, but let's check the headlines first this hour.

The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says, "We will never surrender." Saif al-Islam spoke on state TV warning rebels that government forces are advancing on the eastern stronghold of Benghazi, saying victory is in sight.

NATO's secretary-general says the alliance is ready to help establish a no-fly zone over Libya if it gets a clear mandate from the United Nations. Anders Fogh Rasmussen also warned Libya is in danger of becoming a failed state.

Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh says there will be a vote on a new constitution by the end of 2011. He's under pressure from heavy protest and has said he'll not run again in the next election. Opposition leaders say the moves aren't enough.

US stocks sink. The Dow has closed below 12,000 for the first time since January the 31st. Fears about the economy and unrest in Saudi Arabia pushed the blue chips lower.

One of the world's best-known figures says he's stepping away from the political stoplight -- spotlight. The Dalai Lama has announced he plans to retire as political head of the Tibetan exile movement. As Hala Gorani tells us, the Nobel Laureate has been thinking about retirement now for some time.


HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From his temple in northern India, where he spent the last 52 years in exile, the Dalai Lama made it official, saying next week he will ask to resign from his political post, and it's time the Tibetan people had an elected leader.

Speaking in his native tongue, the Buddhist monk told the crowd, quote, "My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run."

He first told me about his wish to retire in October of last year.

GORANI (on camera): You think you would retire?


GORANI: When might that happen?

DALAI LAMA: That, I don't know. Usually -- now, recently, in south India, we had one big sort of meeting. At that time, I asked the people in the meeting whether I have the human right or not. That if -- I was a human being, if -- literally, I also have the human right. So, including retirement, also my right.

GORANI: But is there -- people would really want to know if you're considering retirement, is this something you're considering in the short term or in the much longer term?

DALAI LAMA: Sooner or later, I have to go. Now my age, now over 75. Certainly, after 10 years or 20 years, one day I will go.

GORANI (voice-over): The Dalai Lama's announcement comes on the anniversary of the day he fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. And while he may be giving up politics, the Dalai Lama says he plans to remain Tibet's spiritual leader. Hala Gorani, CNN, Atlanta.


FOSTER: Despite 50 years in exile, the reach of Tibet's spiritual leader has extended far beyond his community in India, and now he's recognized as one of the world's leading religious figures. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet has traveled all over the world, meeting everyone from US actor Richard Gere to the late Pope John Paul II.

In February, earlier this year, he also met with US president Barak Obama, but no independent media were allowed to photograph the meeting. The Obama administration wants to be mindful of offending China.

The Dalai Lama and China have a very tense relationship. Beijing says Tibet is part of China, but many Tibetans disagree. China continues to regard the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist, although he's repeatedly stated his goal is Tibetan autonomy rather than independence.

Eunice Yoon, now, has more on China's reaction to this announcement.


EUNICE YOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): China has long reviled the Dalai Lama. The authorities, here, believe that he's a separatist, and his decision to step down as it involves his political responsibilities was only met with disdain.

At a regular press briefing, the ministry of foreign affairs had this to say about the exiled Tibetan leader.

JIANG YU, SPOKESWOMAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long targeted the splitting up of China. For a long time, he has been a leader and mastermind behind political activism. He has said many times in the past few years that he plans to retire. I think this is one of his tricks to deceive the international community.

YOON: The Dalai Lama made his announcement on the 52nd anniversary of the uprising of Tibet against China. He says that he's going to maintain his role as a spiritual leader, but he will make way for a young, freely- elected leader to take on his political responsibilities.

This is largely seen as a symbolic gesture. The government in exile has made little progress in Tibet's struggle against Chinese rule. Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.


FOSTER: Next week, the Tibetan community in exile will vote on a new leader, but where does all this leave the Tibetan community in relations with China? I want to bring in one of our regular thinkers on the show, Gordon Chang, author of "The Coming Collapse of China."

Gordon, thank you very much for joining us. This is just what China wanted, isn't it? Is this going to work in their favor?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "THE COMING COLLAPSE OF CHINA": I don't think so. Beijing has long complained about the anachronistic idea of Lama rule of the government in exile. So, the Dalai Lama's saying, "OK, we're going to go to full democratization."

The issue for Beijing is going to be, then, well, if the Tibetans in India have full democracy, then how about the Tibetans in Tibet. And then, how about the Chinese in China? So, I think this is going to really work against Beijing. It's now getting what it's asking for, and I think they're going to have a hard time trying to explain their way out of this one.

FOSTER: And explain the Dalai Lama's position amongst his followers, as he were -- as it were, because there's -- he hasn't always been praised for his efforts, has he? There's a sense that he hasn't actually achieved everything that they'd hoped he'd achieve. So, are there young Tibetans who actually think this is a good thing?

CHANG: Well, I think many young Tibetans want full independence. And the problem for Beijing is that the Dalai Lama has held the Tibetans together and has held the situation so that, although there have been problems, such as in 2008, nonetheless, the Dalai Lama has been a very constructive force.

When he's gone from the scene, not only as political leader, but as spiritual leader, I think you can see the Tibetan movement become much more active, and this will be hard for Beijing to deal with.

FOSTER: What sort of person will replace him, then? Some sort of hard-liner, in those terms?

CHANG: I think that Beijing is going to pick its own Dalai Lama, and the Tibetans in Tibet -- in India are going to pick theirs.

Beijing says that the Dalai Lama cannot reincarnate without its permission, but it is going to happen. We're going to have Dalai Lamas, sort of -- a Lama with split personalities. It's like having two popes. It's going to take a long time to resolve.

FOSTER: It's not really good news for the Tibetan cause internationally, though, is it? Because they've lost this key figurehead. I mean, he's one of the world's most famous people.

CHANG: Absolutely. When the Dalai Lama does die, I think that it is going to be very difficult for the Tibetans, not only in Dharamsala in India, but also around the world.

But nonetheless, this is a very resilient community. It knows what it wants, and I think it's going to be quite formidable. And they probably will be able to coalesce around someone, perhaps the Karmapa Lama, who is also charismatic. And so, he could really be the successor in very many senses to the Dalai Lama.

FOSTER: And the current Dalai Lama, will he still be working behind the scenes, do you think? I -- one assumes he'll still be a big figure in the movement.

CHANG: Absolutely. And now that he will no longer be a political figure, Beijing will have less grounds to complain when global leaders meet the Dalai Lama. Beijing doesn't want anybody to see him in whatever role, but they're going to have one less reason to complain about this.

So, I think we might even see a more active Dalai Lama, despite his age. He's 75. And this could be a problem again, because Beijing is going to have to deal with this symbol who will be going around the world.

FOSTER: Gordon Chang, thank you very much, indeed. And as Gordon said, he is 75 years old, but he does still manage to keep up with modern technology. The Dalai Lama has over a million followers on Twitter, and on CONNECT THE WORLD's Facebook page, you're telling us what you think about his announcement.

Evy is a big fan of the exiled leader. She writes, "I wish the Dalai Lama would someday be head of a country. He would revolutionize everything."

Praveen says, "With so much happening around the world, people are little worried about Mr. Lama."

And responding to China's reaction, Keira Rodriguez says, "Who cares what the Chinese foreign ministry thinks? It's not like they're the most objective or open-minded when it comes to change and different ideas."

Do head to and become a fan of the show. Leave your comments, as well,

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, we'll look at the remarkable story of a young tennis star who used her status to help a family member in dire need. Do stick with us.


FOSTER: The stories that came out of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake were tales of loss and, often, hope as the world came together to help a country in desperation.

Well, now we're bringing you one girl's remarkable tale. Rising tennis star Victoria Duval banded together with friends and family to rescue her father, who was trapped in the rubble. Alex Thomas has the full story.


NICK BOLLETTIERI, TENNIS COACH: Level shoulders, beautiful. Now, this stroke is one of the common strokes on the tour. Backhands as well. Perfect, Vicky, perfect.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Vicky Duval, a Nick Bollettieri protege and a rising star in American tennis.

BOLLETTIERI: It looks like she's going to be about six to six-one, built the same as Venus Williams. We're teaching her the total game.

Any ball like that, you're attacking. Why? You're going to catch the opponent out of position, and you're also going to make the opponent fear that Vicky Duval is going to come in,

THOMAS (voice-over): But just over a year ago, tennis was the last thing on her mind.

Vicky's family come from Haiti, and her father was still running his medical practice there when the earthquake struck in January 2010.

VICTORIA DUVAL, TENNIS STAR: One morning, we got a call from him. He was under the house, and he was sort of kind of giving us his last words. He said to my mom, "Tell the kids I love them" and all that stuff. And my mom just collapsed on the floor. She said, "No, no, no, you're going to make it."

JEAN-MAURICE DUVAL, VICTORIA'S FATHER: I mean, our house collapsed and, well, in fact, I was close, so many times close to death.

NADINE DUVAL, VICTORIA'S MOTHER: It was devastating. And Vicky, also, she is very strong and resilient, because I collapsed. I was a mess, and I couldn't take care of her. And instead of me being the adult at the moment, she was the one who hugged me, and she said, "Mom, it's going to be OK. We're going to get through this."

THOMAS (voice-over): Jean-Maurice Duval managed to emerge from the rubble of his home, but he was seriously injured. He had a shattered left arm, fractured vertebrae, five broken ribs, and a punctured lung. He had less than a day to live. A miracle was needed.

CHARLOTTE KITCHEN, FRIEND OF THE DUVALS: So you're going to go ahead and get your tennis rackets and you're going to start hitting.


THOMAS (voice-over): And it arrived in the shape of a family from Atlanta, the Kitchens.

ASHLEY KITCHEN: Because Vicky was my friend and I'd just met her, and whenever we went over to their house on Tuesday night, I saw how in pain their family was, and I tried to put myself in their shoes, thinking, what if I didn't have a father, and what if I was in this situation?

CHARLOTTE KITCHEN: Casey is the number one seed.


CHARLOTTE KITCHEN: I called my husband, and I had to get him onboard with this rescue. He started calling the embassy. He called some politicians we know. None of that worked.

So, at the same time, Jean-Maurice's wife, Nadine, was calling and found an ambulance air company.

THOMAS (voice-over): Despite only knowing the Duvals for a few months, the Kitchens paid $18,000 to have Jean-Maurice airlifted out of Haiti.

CHARLOTTE KITCHEN: Well, it was, at this point, a life or death situation, and pretty much there was no hesitation.

NADINE DUVAL: They were very helpful in providing with an air ambulance to go and get him while the situation was still really bad. And if it hadn't happened, he wouldn't have been here today.

JEAN-MAURICE DUVAL: Thank you, God. Thanks, Charlotte.

NADINE DUVAL: Thanks, Charlotte.

How was your day?

VICTORIA DUVAL: It was awesome.

THOMAS (voice-over): A year on, the family is together again in America. Due to his injuries, Jean-Maurice is no longer able to practice medicine.

BOLLETTIERI: Vicky, come on, let's go.

They don't come from any money. And they're very humble, but they're very bright. And I've sort of taken her under my wing.

THOMAS (voice-over): The funding needed to aid Vicky's professional development has been provided by friends and colleagues of Nick Bollettieri.

BOLLETTIERI: Unless you're hungry, and maybe not have everything hand-fed to you, that you really only have an option, play ball.


FOSTER: Well, do see more of Victoria Duval's story this weekend on "Open Court." Pat Cash will show us the stars of hard court season in the United States. That's Saturday, 23:30 in London, here on CNN.

Next up, the Australian teenager who spent 210 days at sea alone. History-making sailor Jessica Watson joins us as your Connector of the Day, and she's preparing to set sail again.


FOSTER: On October the 16th, 2009, Jessica Watson wrote in her blog, "Tomorrow, I'm going to get up and I'm going to sail around the world. And that's exactly what she did. It's an achievement alone for any sailor, but Jessica was the youngest to do so solo and unassisted. Let's get you connected with this young Australian adventurer.


FOSTER (voice-over): Sixteen years old, alone at sea for 210 days in conditions that got rougher than this.

JESSICA WATSON, AUSTRALIAN SAILOR: I really shouldn't have this camera out here, it's a bit wet, but this is the most amazing thing. I've spotted land. The first land I've seen in a couple of months, and it's a mile of Cape Horn, here.

FOSTER (voice-over): The voyage of "Ella's Pink Lady" was watched by thousands around the world who tuned in to Jessica's regular diary blogs.

WATSON: I'll be counting in 2010 at midnight my time zone tonight. To be honest, I didn't have to put much thought into my New Year's resolution, it was quite easy, I think. Get back to Sydney's going to be challenge enough, so, happy New Year to everyone.

FOSTER (voice-over): Indeed, the last leg of Watson's journey was the toughest, her yacht knocked down during wild storms. But on May the 15th, 2010, the "Pink Lady" sailed into Sydney Harbor to a sea of fans. Her journey complete, her dream realized.

KEVIN RUDD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: Three cheers for our newest Australian hero, our Jess Watson. Hip hip --

CROWD: Hooray!

RUDD: Hip hip --

CROWD: Hooray!

RUDD: Hip hip --

CROWD: Hooray!

FOSTER (voice-over): I asked Jessica how she felt the moment she arrived home.

WATSON: I think it was just completely overwhelming. So much to take in, all of a sudden you've got people, voices, cameras, people calling your name. You don't know what to think, you don't know where to look, I suppose, after so long of not seeing a lot, it's just too much to take in.

FOSTER (on camera): A very famous sailor gave you a 33 percent chance of success. Did you ever doubt yourself?

WATSON: Well, look. I don't think I'd ever met that particular sailor and I don't think he actually had much information about the voyage or the preparation. But, of course, it is a big, scary, and a dangerous thing to be doing.

And for those people who didn't understand the safety measures we had put in place, you can understand their concern. And yes. Like I said, it's a thing to worry about.

FOSTER: We've had questions from around the world, one from nearby in New Zealand. Rose from New Zealand is interested in knowing more about some of the really dangerous situations that you found yourself in. She asks, "Did you ever think that you might not get around?"

WATSON: Look, I don't think that's what you're thinking in those times, the moments that are, I expect, quite dicey. You're just reacting to the situation, you're just dealing with what you have to. It's sort of later you sort of have the time to realize, wow, that was a dangerous situation.

FOSTER: What's the scary situation that keeps coming back to you?

WATSON: You know, there's been sort of one -- there's been a few of them, obviously, but the one situation to stand out was a storm during the Atlantic Ocean, where the boat was rolled over or knocked down, as we call it, four times. And there's one particular knockdown in that storm that was really -- there was a lot of force behind it, it was a very, very big wave, and quite scary.

FOSTER: Joe Catman asks, "Can you walk us through a typical day on the seas? How much time did you have, for example?" he asks.

WATSON: Oh, there wasn't ever a typical day at sea. It was all completely dependent on the weather or what was happening around you. So, sometimes you'd have very, very little to do, the boat would basically sail itself, and other times you'd be knee-deep nonstop, I suppose.

You have -- you have your jobs, your maintenance jobs, you'd have whatever sailing to do. You'd have the skeds you'd be talking to back home a couple times a day. You have your updates to write. And I always used to take a special bit of time at sunset just to simply watch it and let it sink in.

FOSTER: You mention your updates, though, in your blog, which was followed by so many people, wasn't it? I guess when you felt lonely, you at least had that sort of interaction with people.

WATSON: Yes, I was very, very lucky to have that modern communication, and I did have satellite phone and satellite internet and was able to keep in touch with friends and family and, through the blog, quite a lot of other people.

It's great to have. I can honestly say I never felt lonely. Yes, I missed everyone, my friends and family, and definitely felt homesick at times. But I think that's quite different to lonely.

FOSTER: We call you a record-breaker, but I know that the World Speed Sailing Council won't recognize your record because it's no longer allowing anyone under 18 to hold a record. What are your thoughts on that? I guess they're thinking about safety, aren't they?

WATSON: Look, it's just a decision of a few particular organizations who have decided not to accept under 18-year-old records. And you can understand where they're coming from completely because, as I said before, it's a big, scary, and dangerous thing to be doing.

Myself, look, it never worried me particularly because I never did it for a piece of paper. I think there's very, very few people who are supposed to take it here in Australia who don't recognize it as a record even though it hasn't been, I suppose, officially ratified because I'm under 18,.

FOSTER: And Heikki wants to know, "What was the most amazing or wondrous thing that you saw on that journey around the world?"

WATSON: I love that question. I do love talking about the good parts rather than the tough times. It's very hard to pin it down to one moment, though. From what -- the trip was great for me was because every day for 210 days you'd get up and you'd go sailing. It doesn't get any better than that.

But obviously, there's the sunset, when the water glasses right out to you, reflecting the colors of the sunset. And then, later, the stars or surfing down a big wave, seeing the huge, big albatross in the southern ocean. It was those little moments along the way that made it quite special.

FOSTER: Peet from South Africa asks, quite simply, "What's next?"

WATSON: A good question again. Look, I'm 17, I've got school to finish this year. I've just got my driver's license, which I'm quite proud of, to be honest. All of these things. Yes, there will be other projects. There's a long list of other sailing and adventures coming up, keep your ears tuned. But one step at a time. And I'd love to actually have more time on the beach, as well, as a 17-year-old.

FOSTER: You've talked about how your driving license is something you're proud of. Did you -- it's a bizarre thing to sort of hear from someone, but I guess -- who's sailed around the world. But did you find it hard, the driving test?

WATSON: Well, it was quite a long process to get it. I've only just got it, and I only just got it just as well. So, it was. It was another challenge, I suppose. It sounds crazy from just sailing around the world, but like any 17-year-old, we do these things.


FOSTER: Jessica Watson, there. And just today, actually, Jessica announced another record-breaking challenge, would you believe? She's going to race in the iconic Sydney to Hobart yacht race at the end of the year and will skipper the youngest crew ever to compete in the treacherous event. I don't think people will be writing her off quite so quickly this time.

Tomorrow night, we wrap up our week of adventurous Connectors with the first Arab woman to step a foot on the North Pole. Pushing beyond her physical, mental, and cultural barriers, Dubai-born Elham Al-Qasmi joins us, tomorrow night.

Until then, you can catch up on all our other intrepid Connectors. Just head to

Our Parting Shots tonight will be more like slam dunks. We're about to show you one man's mission to get noticed and, by the looks of his million hits on YouTube, he's certainly on the right track.

This is Illinois College basketballer Jacob Tucker. As you can see, he's got quite a talent. That's about a 50-inch vertical leap by his calculations, at least. Tucker wants to compete in a US dunk contest, but he says he doesn't qualify because he's a Division III player. So, this is his online petition.

We reached out to the National Collegiate Athletic Association to see if they're considering his entry, but we haven't heard back from them yet. Though, certainly, they're going to be getting a few calls, I think, after all of that.

Well, I'm Max Foster. That is your world connected. Thank you for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break.