BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s foreign minister, speaking ahead of two sensitive anniversaries next week, warned other countries on Saturday not to let the Dalai Lama use their territory to try to sever Tibet from Chinese control.
Beijing abruptly canceled a China-EU summit last year, angry over French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whom Beijing condemns as a separatist.
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in March 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, says he only wants greater autonomy for the remote region in China’s far west rather than outright independence.
“In developing relations with China, other countries should not allow the Dalai Lama to visit their countries and should not allow their territories to be used for the Dalai Lama to engage in separatist activities for Tibet’s independence,” Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said.
“I think this is an integral part of the norms governing international relations,” he told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament.
The 50th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk’s flight into exile falls on Tuesday. Also, on March 14 last year, Lhasa erupted into riots that killed 19 mostly Han Chinese or Hui Muslim shopkeepers.
“The Dalai Lama’s side still insists on establishing a so-called Greater Tibet on a quarter of Chinese territory. They want to drive away Chinese armed forces on Chinese territory and ask all non-Tibetans to relocate themselves, people who have long spent their lives on that part of Chinese territory. You call this person a religious figure?” Yang said.
“Would Germany, France or other countries accept that a quarter of their territory be separated? Please keep in mind that China was always a supporter of German reunification.”
China has ruled remote and mountainous Tibet with an iron hand since People’s Liberation Army troops marched into the region in 1950.
The Lhasa riots triggered demonstrations and marches throughout ethnically Tibetan regions which were quelled after a few days by Chinese police and paramilitary troops.
Thousands of Tibetans were rounded up in the following crackdown across the region last year. Exiled Tibetan groups say many were beaten and some were killed, prompting anti-China demonstrations which disrupted some international legs of the Beijing Olympics torch relay.
A Chinese-language website catering to Tibetans shut for repairs on Friday, coinciding with next week’s anniversaries. The popular website featured news from China’s state-run media and government, as well as cultural and Buddhist content.
“Tibet Culture Net will begin upgrading and maintenance, which will need about a week to complete,” read a notice posted on www.tibetcul.com on March 5.
“During the period, Tibet Culture Net cannot be accessed. Please be understanding.”
Amnesty International said this week they and other groups had continued to receive reports of human rights violations in Tibet and surrounding regions.
“There is a real danger that if the Chinese authorities do not adopt an approach based on respect for freedom of expression and for the distinct culture and traditions of the Tibetan population, the protests could escalate,” it said in a report.
A German newspaper, the Frankfurter Rundschau, on Friday quoted the Dalai Lama as saying Tibet was very tense and that there could be “an explosion of violence” at any time.
And International Campaign for Tibet, an activist group, said that two women, one of them a nun, had been detained on Thursday in Garzi, western Sichuan province, for handing out leaflets calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.
But Tibet’s governor said this week he did not expect any major disturbances during next week’s anniversaries and denied authorities had significantly boosted security forces.
Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby, Editing by Nick Macfie and Sugita Katyal