China slams Dalai Lama's latest speech
Chinese officials have reacted with anger to a speech by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in which he said Buddhists were living in prison-like conditions and expressed sympathy with the people of Xinjiang.
In an address on Wednesday marking 51 years since he fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama referred to Xinjiang as “East Turkestan”, the name given to it by pro-independence exiles.
The region is populated by the ethnic minority Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking largely Muslim people.
“He is just using Xinjiang and Tibet as platforms to achieve his goal to separate China,” said Lhasa’s Chinese-appointed mayor Doje Cezhug in remarks carried by the official China Daily on Thursday.
The Dalai Lama also said Beijing had put monks and nuns “in prison-like conditions”, making “monasteries function more like museums ... to deliberately annihilate Buddhism”.
Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March 2008 gave way to torrid violence, with rioters torching shops in Lhasa and turning on residents, including Han Chinese and Hui Muslims.
At least 19 people died in the unrest, which sparked waves of protest across Tibetan areas ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Pro-Tibet groups abroad say more than 200 Tibetans have died in a subsequent crackdown across the region.
Beijing has denied that and said it used minimal force.
“In Tibet, people can believe whatever they want as long as it is legal. The government won’t interfere. Instead it will help people solve problems along the way,” the China Daily quoted Lhasa’s vice mayor Jigme Namgyal as saying.
Padma Choling, China’s newly appointed Tibet governor, said simply: “Let [the] Dalai Lama say whatever he wants. We will just carry on what we do”.
The overseas edition of the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said in a commentary on Thursday that the best way to ensure stability in Tibet and Xinjiang was to step up development there.
“Tibet and Xinjiang will certainly develop together along with the rest of the country,” it said. “If there is long-term stability in the country, then the borders will have everlasting peace.”
Ethnic violence in Xinjiang last year between Uighurs and Han led to at least 200 deaths.—Reuters