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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China snubs Dalia Lama call for high level of autonomy for Tibet

November 11, 2008

Beijing says its rule over region is perfect and accuses exiled spiritual leader of planning ethnic cleansing
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Guardian (UK)
November 10 2008

The Chinese government will never accept the Dalai Lama's calls for high-level autonomy, an official leading talks between the two parties said today.

Tibetan support groups expressed alarm at the harshness of the remarks, which also included an accusation that the exiled spiritual leader was seeking "ethnic cleansing" across the region.

A leading expert on Tibet warned that the dialogue had reached "almost a point of no return" and blamed the British government's recent decision to explicitly recognise Tibet as a part of China for emboldening Beijing.

Today's press conference followed discussions in Beijing last week and precedes next week's agenda-setting meeting between Tibetan exiles about the future of their cause.

Zhu Weiqun, a vice-minister of the Chinese Communist party's united front work department, said: "If [the Dalai Lama] seizes power he will, without any compunction or sympathy, carry out ethnic discrimination, apartheid and ethnic cleansing."

He said there was no progress in last week's talks and blamed the Tibetan side. The current system was "perfect", he said, and in need of no revision. "There is no other way," he added.

Tibet's government-in-exile is not commenting on its discussions with Beijing before the meeting at its base in Dharamsala, India. The Dalai Lama has sounded increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of a deal and younger Tibetans in particular have grown impatient with his "middle path" of peacefully pursuing autonomy for Tibet within China.

Robert Barnett, a leading expert on Tibet at Columbia University, New York, described today as "almost a point of no return" that "closes off all possible routes" to the exiles.

He added: "This is a detailed statement by the actual dialogue team, broadcast live on state television [with] among the most aggressive depictions of the Tibetan position."

He said it was bound to affect opinion within China of Tibetans and questioned whether it was intended to increase radicalisation of exiles -- which might reduce the pressure on Beijing to continue dialogue.

He added: "This is deeply embarrassing for the British government. One has to ask how they ever thought withdrawing the historical basis for talks would ever make it more likely China would continue them.

"It places a major question mark over Britain's ability to be able to read these kinds of situations."

In a parliamentary statement last week, the foreign secretary David Miliband recognised China's sovereignty over Tibet.

The government-in-exile argues that the region enjoyed over many years a high degree of autonomy, which was derived in part on treaties signed by Britain that set the boundaries between Tibet and British-ruled India. Those treaties recognised China's effective rule or "suzerainty", but only on the basis of the region's political autonomy.

Miliband argued that the position was "anachronistic" as the vast majority of countries recognised China's direct rule.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman pointed out that Tibetan support groups had welcomed the statement's stronger focus on human rights.

Other groups were more outspoken. Matt Whitticase, spokesman for Free Tibet, said: "This is a very strong statement [today] coming out soon after China scored a major diplomatic victory. The timing of the British government was spectacularly bad. It surrendered leverage."

A spokeswoman for the International Campaign for Tibet suggested that matters had reached a turning point given the security crackdown in Tibetan areas and hostility towards the Dalai Lama. She described Zhu's language as "owing much more to the paranoia and political extremism of the Mao era than someone representing an emerging would-be superpower".

Last week's meeting was the first round of talks since the Olympics and the third since the violence and unrest in Tibetan areas in March, which ratcheted up tensions over Tibet's status.
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