China Still Walking the Tough Talk on Tibet

China hardens its line on the Dalai Lama, 50 years after his exile.

ByABC News
March 9, 2009, 12:21 PM

BEIJING, March 9, 2009— -- In the eyes of many people around the world, the Dalai Lama appears to be a benign, affable spiritual leader who hardly seems capable of representing a threat to anyone. So it can seem difficult to understand how a Chinese party official could describe the Nobel Peace Prize winner a "wolf in monk's clothing."

The chasm between China and the Dalai Lama remains as wide as ever, as two key anniversaries occur this week -- the failed uprising in Tibet that led to the Dalai Lama's exile in India 50 years ago and last year's protests that spread across Tibetan communities in the Himalayan region.

Chinese leaders continue to be suspicious of the Dalai Lama's motives, insisting he is intent on attaining independence and not simply autonomy for the Tibetans. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reflected such a mood Saturday when a German journalist asked him about Tibet during a news conference.

"The difference between China and the Dalai Lama has nothing to do with religion, human rights, ethnic relations and culture," Yang said. "It is an issue of whether to defend China's unity against attempts to separate Tibet from China."

"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."

"Do you call such a person a religious figure? Would Germany, France or other countries accept that a quarter of their territory be separated?"

Yang called on other countries not to invite the Dalai Lama and allow him to use their territory for his "secessionist activities" and warned that China considers Tibet a core issue involving sovereignty, thus elevating Tibet on the same level as the sensitive issue of Taiwan.