BEIJING - China on Thursday called on the Dalai Lama to stop indulging in separatist activities and create conducive conditions for talks with the government.
"The Dalai distorts the true situation in Tibet. He attacks and insults the central government's policies on Tibet to trumpet his separatist claims of independence or semi-independence," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said during a regular news conference in Beijing on Thursday.
The Dalai Lama had accused the Chinese government of putting "the monks and nuns (of Tibet) in prison-like conditions", and deliberately "annihilating Buddhism" during an address to mark the 51st anniversary of his exile, in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, on Wednesday.
The Dalai Lama had on March 10, 1959 fled the country after an armed rebellion to separate Tibet from China was foiled. The Dalai Lama also referred to China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as "East Turkestan", the name given to it by separatists.
"This exposes and proves his intent of splitting up China and wrecking ethnic unity," Qin said. No country in the world recognizes Tibet Autonomous Region as an independent nation, nor do they acknowledge the "exiled government", he said. Qin also praised India for its efforts to ban anti-China movements in the country.
The Dalai Lama's address came just four days before the second anniversary of the March 14 Lhasa riots in 2008 which left 19 dead and injured over 400 people. Lhasa's Vice-Mayor Jigme Namgyal told China Daily Wednesday that the Dalai Lama was "a separatist who uses religion as a cloak" to conceal his intentions.
"They (Tibetans in exile) are just a small group of people attempting to create a dramatic effect in the international arena as well as in Lhasa. They must be thinking about inciting more trouble this year as the anniversary approaches, but I don't think they will succeed."
Namgyal also refuted the Dalai Lama's claim about the condition of Buddhists in Tibet, and said Tibetans were now more focused on their quality of life. "The people in Tibet have put much effort on improving the quality of their lives and I don't think there's any problem in this matter."
"The Dalai Lama cannot decide the future of Tibet; that right is in the hands of Chinese people including Tibetans. The so-called "annihilation of Buddhism" is an audacious lie. The government does not interfere with people's beliefs as long as they are legal. It has never stopped Tibetans from their religious practices and has actually provided lots of conveniences. For example, when there are big religious festivals, the government provides funding and helps in other ways," the vice-mayor added.
Over the year, the central government has done much to ensure a better life. According to Xinhua News Agency, more than 6 billion yuan ($878 million) was invested for environmental protection efforts in Tibet over the past eight years, while another 9.8 billion yuan was approved over the weekend for an environmental protection program.
The local illiteracy rate has dropped from 98 percent 50 years ago to the current 2.4 percent. Local schools teach both Tibetan and Chinese.
"There are over 1,700 places of religious worship in Tibet and a total of 460,000 monks and nuns. The need for prayer and religious activity is fully met. All the monks and nuns over the age of 60 are also included in our social welfare system," Padma Choling, Tibet's governor, told Xinhua.
Cheng Guangjin contributed to the story
(China Daily 03/12/2010 page11)