/ 27 April 2008

China pours scorn on Dalai Lama before proposed talks

China poured scorn on the Dalai Lama on Sunday and hailed protesters against Tibetan self-rule as patriotic heroes, suggesting the government is not prepared to give ground in talks proposed for coming days.

China has blamed the exiled Buddhist leader’s ”clique” for unrest across Lhasa and other Tibetan areas, which it says was aimed at upstaging the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

But after an international diplomatic chorus urging dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Beijing abruptly announced on Friday that it intended to meet his aides in the next few days.

Yet the undimmed criticism of the Dalai Lama in Chinese state media suggests the government will treat any talks as a chance to amplify opposition to his calls for regional and religious autonomy.

”The Dalai clique has always been masters at games with words and the ideas that they have tossed about truly make the head spin,” the People’s Daily, the top paper of the ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary.

”Questions of sovereignty are beyond debate and splitting China is sure to fail.”

The paper instead praised ethnic Chinese demonstrators who opposed pro-Tibet protests that have disrupted the global Olympic torch relay, particularly in London and Paris.

”Faced with Tibet independence, the Chinese government and people, and overseas Chinese, have shown unprecedented unity. …Those who follow national unity are national heroes, and those who split the nation are criminals to history.”

A prominent member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, which claims to represent the true aspirations of the region, said on Sunday there had been ”no official contact as yet” on the proposed talks, which he called a ruse.

”This announcement is only to deflect pressure and gives false assurance to Western leaders,” Parliament member Khedroob Thondup, a nephew of the Dalai Lama, said by telephone from India.

There have been six rounds of dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys since 2002 with no breakthroughs.

Tibet’s government-in-exile said earlier that it wanted the dialogue but also wanted China to end ”vilification” of the Dalai.

But China’s official Xinhua news agency on Sunday called the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India, an illegitimate organisation bent on stirring separatist unrest.

”By distorting the facts and spreading rumours, it has slandered China with claims of violating human rights in Tibet,” said the news agency. – Reuters 2008.