Foreign leaders cannot think they can get away with meeting the Dalai Lama just because they are doing it in a personal capacity, as they still represent their governments, a senior Chinese official said yesterday.
China considers the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, to be a dangerous separatist.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk says he simply seeks genuine autonomy for his homeland.
Visits by the Dalai Lama to foreign countries infuriate China, and fewer and fewer national leaders are willing to meet him, fearing the consequences of Chinese anger, although some have tried to placate Beijing by saying they are meeting him in a personal, not official capacity.
Zhang Yijiong (張裔炯), who heads the Chinese Communist Party’s Tibet working group, told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress that there could be no excuses to meeting the Dalai Lama.
“Although some people say the Dalai is a religious figure, our government didn’t put in an appearance, it was just individual officials, this is incorrect,” said Zhang, who is also a vice minister at the United Front Work Department, which has led failed talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives.
“Officials, in their capacity as officials, attending all foreign-related activities represent their governments, so I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty,” he added.
China strongly denies accusations of rights abuses in Tibet, saying its rule has brought prosperity to what was a remote and backward region, and that it fully respects the religious and cultural rights of Tibetans.
Zhang, who worked in Tibet from 2006 to 2010 as a deputy Chinese Communist Party boss, said that Tibetan Buddhism was a special religion “born in our ancient China.”
“It’s a Chinese religion. It didn’t come in from the outside,” he said.
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