China keeps tough line on Dalai Lama talks

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday spurned international calls for his government to hold talks with the exiled Dalai Lama over recent unrest in Tibetan areas, blaming the Buddhist leader for violent protests and accusing him of insincerity.

18 March 2008

Beijing (dpa) - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday spurned international calls for his government to hold talks with the exiled Dalai Lama over recent unrest in Tibetan areas, blaming the Buddhist leader for violent protests and accusing him of insincerity.

Wen said that supporters of the Dalai Lama had encouraged the "appalling incident in Lhasa", the capital of China's Tibet region, and "similar incidents in other parts of China".

"There is plenty of evidence proving that this (Lhasa) incident was organized, premeditated and masterminded by the Dalai clique," Wen told reporters at the end of the annual National People's Congress, China's nominal parliament.

Claims by supporters of the Dalai Lama that they wanted peaceful dialogue were "nothing but lies," he said.

"Even under these circumstances, our original position remains unchanged," he said when asked about the possibility of direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

"As long as the Dalai Lama is willing to give up the so-called 'Tibet independence' and accept that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, our door is wide open," Wen said.

The Dalai Lama has previously declined to comment on the status of Taiwan, which China still claims as a breakaway province, on the grounds that the island has no connection with Tibet.

He has publicly renounced independence in favour of maximum autonomy and religious freedom for Tibet within China, but Beijing continues to accuse him of seeking independence and blames him for the lack of dialogue.

"We should not only listen to what he says, but also listen to what he does," Wen said.

Wen's comments came as Tibetan exile groups reported more protests in Tibetan areas of China on Tuesday.

Tibetan students at Beijing's Central Minorities University also held a silent, candle-lit vigil on Monday night for those who died in the violence, reports said.

The government on Monday expelled journalists from Lhasa and suspended permits for foreigners to travel to the city as a Tibetan exile group reported mass arrests ahead of a deadline for protesters to surrender to police.

Officials on Monday said at least 13 people had died in Friday's rioting, but the Tibetan government in exile said it had confirmed at least 80 deaths in the city.

Wen on Tuesday repeated the government's assertion that its forces had "exercised extreme restraint" in confronting protesters.

"We are fully capable of maintaining stability and normal public order in Tibet, he said.

China would continue efforts to develop the economy of the region to "improve the livelihood of all ethnic groups in Tibet," he said.

US President George W Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both met the Dalai Lama last year, are among the world leaders who have urged China to hold dialogue with him over the recent unrest.
[Copyright dpa 2008]

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