China mum on evidence for Tibet conspiracy claims

BEIJING, March 20 (Reuters) - China refused on Thursday to detail evidence against the Dalai Lama or the nature of his "clique", which it says masterminded the most violent anti-government protests in its ethnic Tibetan areas in 20 years.

China says a group it calls the "Dalai clique" organised protests that turned into a riot in Tibet's capital Lhasa last week that killed at least 13 people and which spilled over into parts of its western provinces.

But during an hour-long news conference, its Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to elaborate on who that group includes or how such a plot went undetected by China's intelligence organs in a region that the Communist government tightly controls.

"As the investigation unfolds, relevant authorities of China will release evidence in due course," Qin Gang said.

Qin did not say how China could be certain the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who has lived in exile since a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, was behind the unrest if the investigation has not yet concluded.

And he brushed aside a question on whether China would seek the Dalai Lama's extradition from the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where he lives in exile.

Asked who would conduct the probe and how long it might last, Qin said: "China is a country under the rule of law. Those lawless people cannot run away from justice."

The lack of detail to back its version of events, and refusal to allow journalists into Tibet or Tibetan parts of western China, highlight the public relations challenge Beijing faces in winning international support.


China's preconditions on dialogue with the Dalai Lama also paint it into a corner, as it insists on actions from Dharamsala that outside observers say have already been met.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, in a telephone call on Wednesday that he would be prepared to enter into a dialogue if the Dalai Lama renounced support for total independence for Tibet and the use of violence.

But the Dalai Lama has long advocated a "middle way" in which he seeks autonomy, not independence, for Tibet, which Chinese Communist troops entered in 1950, and has asked Tibetans to eschew violent means of protest.

Qin said that was not good enough.

"He has said he is not a separatist. But all of his propositions and actions prove that he has never stopped his splittist words and deeds," Qin said.

The Dalai Lama must "truly" abandon his stance, he added.

Analysts say a strategy of attacking the Dalai Lama is unlikely to garner sympathy abroad, where the 72-year-old winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is widely respected.

"Connecting him with the violence is not going to be an effective strategy in winning the PR game," said Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"He's a moderate, he's a voice for moderation, he's very respected, he's sincere in his desire to see the Tibetan issue resolved," Pei said.

Qin said it was hypocritical to preach tolerance in the face of violent riots.

"If those acts can be tolerated, is there any law in the world? Is there any justice in the world?" he asked. "We hope the international community can understand this point." (Editing by Alex Richardson)