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China rules out more Tibetan autonomy

The Dalai Lama has expressed optimism that Chinese President Xi Jinping may restart talks on greater autonomy for Tibet  © Scanpix/AFP

The Dalai Lama has expressed optimism that Chinese President Xi Jinping may restart talks on greater autonomy for Tibet
© Scanpix/AFP

BEIJING, Apr 15 – Beijing threw cold water Wednesday on the possibility of re-launching talks with the Dalai Lama, saying greater autonomy for Tibet was “not up for discussion” and accusing the spiritual leader of backing “ethnic cleansing”.

The statement comes months after the exiled spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner expressed optimism that Chinese President Xi Jinping may be open to restarting dialogue about the region.

In a nearly 18,000-word white paper, the Information Office of the State Council, China’s Cabinet, declared that the Dalai Lama must focus on seeking “forgiveness” from the Chinese government.

“Any negotiations will be limited to seeking solutions for the Dalai Lama to completely abandon separatist claims and activities and gain the forgiveness of the central government and the Chinese people, and to working out what he will do with the rest of his life,” it said.

“As the political status and system of Tibet is stipulated by the Chinese Constitution and laws, the ‘Tibet issue’ and ‘a high degree of autonomy’ are not up for discussion,” it added, dismissing the Tibetan government-in-exile in India as “essentially a separatist political group”.

The ruling Communist Party held nine rounds of dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s envoys from 2002 to 2010 but the process produced no visible results.

The Dalai Lama has previously expressed optimism about the current administration in Beijing, in what some have seen as a possible easing of tensions with China, which has accused him of seeking secession for Tibet.

The 79-year-old Buddhist leader denies aspirations for independence and says he seeks “a high degree of autonomy” for the region.

He has called for limits to state-backed Han Chinese migration to Tibet, a stance which the white paper said was “tantamount to an ethnic cleansing of the plateau”.

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“The Dalai group’s logic is absurd and chilling, proposing to force tens of millions of people of other ethnic groups out of this region where they have lived for generations,” it alleged.

More than 130 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China since 2009, most of them fatally, according to rights groups. A Tibetan nun set herself aflame last week to protest at China’s rule over the region.

The Dalai Lama has described the self-immolations as spontaneous acts of desperation and said he is powerless to stop them.

But the Beijing document accused the Dalai Lama of secretly backing violence in the region while “feigning beneficence to gain international sympathy and support”.

“For the Dalai party, ‘peace’ and ‘non-violence’ are no more than fig leaves, and in truth they have never abandoned the use of violence to promote their ultimate goal of ‘Tibetan independence’,” it said.

– ‘Wheels of history’ –

The 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and has lived in exile in India ever since.

In a December interview with France 24 television, he described Xi as a “realist” who was being held back by elements within the Communist Party.

But the white paper is a signal that Beijing — which has called the Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk’s robes” — will continue to take a hard-line approach to the issue.

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Tibet’s government-in-exile in India said in a statement the white paper “clearly indicates the Chinese government’s nervousness over its grip on occupied Tibet”.

“The Chinese government’s attempt to portray the Middle Way policy as an attempt by Tibetans to strike out for independence is deliberately misleading, a huge indication of the government’s total failure to come up with better ideas,” it added.

The Nobel laureate has suggested in recent months that he may not be reincarnated after he dies — which would prevent Beijing picking a successor of its own choice.

His statement infuriated the officially atheist Communist authorities, who maintain that they have the sole authority to decide reincarnation, but the white paper said only that “living Buddha reincarnation is a succession system unique to Tibetan Buddhism and is respected by the state”.

It called on the Dalai Lama to “put aside his illusions in his remaining years” and “do something of benefit to overseas Tibetan compatriots in exile”.

“The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible,” it stated. “Tibet’s path of development is one imposed by history and chosen by the people.”

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