China plays down Foreign Secy's Dalai Lama meeting

China plays down Foreign Secy's Dalai Lama meeting

China gave a guarded response to Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama on Tuesday, saying it hopes India will abide by its commitment not to allow exiled Tibetans to conduct anti-China activities.

"China has expressed its position clearly to the Indian side over this (Tibet) issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing here when asked about Rao's July 10 meeting with the Dalai Lama at Dharamshala.

"The Indian government has expressed on many occasions to China that it recognises Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the PRC (People's Republic of China) and it would not allow exiled Tibetans in India to conduct anti-China political activities. So we hope India could abide by its commitments on Tibet-related issues and properly handle all the issues," he said.

Qin's comments were regarded as mild by observers here as normally China reacts strongly to top officials of any country meeting the Tibetan Nobel laureate. US President Barack Obama's recent meeting with the Dalai in Washington drew a strong condemnation from Beijing which asserted that it amounted to interference in China's sovereign affairs.

Rao's meeting, which came close on the heels of National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon's visit here as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Special Envoy from July 3 to 6 during which he held talks with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, sparked off speculation that China may have sent a message for Dalai, who recently turned 75.

Though critical of the Dalai, Chinese officials have been holding talks with his representatives, the last of which were held here early this year. For his part, the exiled Tibetan leader acknowledges that Tibet is part of China but wants more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

China has granted substantial autonomy to Hong Kong and Macau though the two regions are part of the mainland, but is averse to according the same status to Tibet. The Dalai has also been proposing the concept of 'Greater Tibet' incorporating some of the Tibetan majority prefectures likes his native Qinghai, which suffered a devastating earthquake this year.

China in recent months has stepped up attacks on the Dalai Lama, specially targeting him on his comments that he was also son of India and on his Greater Tibet concept. Also this year, China has raised the profile of 11th Panchen Lama, the 20-year-old Chinese government-appointed monk who is being projected as a successor to the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama was also made a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

The Panchen Lama, regarded as second-in-command in Tibetan spiritual affairs, recently went on a prolonged visit to Tibet and made a political debut of sorts, taking charge of the Monastery at Xigatse which is exclusively devoted to Panchen Lamas.

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