Don't be bewitched by Dalai Lama: Tibetan official

Last Updated 27 March 2019, 11:38 IST

Tibetan officials on Wednesday defended China's policies in the southwestern region and called on the international community not to be "bewitched" by the exiled Dalai Lama or his "rumours" about the human rights situation there.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule that forced the region's spiritual leader into permanent exile in India.

It resulted in a bloody crackdown that the government-in-exile says killed tens of thousands.

Beijing continues to be accused of political and religious repression in the region, but insists Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms and that it has brought economic growth.

Critics of Beijing's policies in Tibet were misled by rumours or "bewitched by separatist groups such as that of the Dalai Lama", said Norbu Dondrup, vice chairman of the regional government.

In a white paper published Wednesday, the Chinese government said "economic and cultural ties between people in Tibet and those in the rest of China have become closer, with an increasing number of mixed communities and a closer emotional bond".

It also said Tibet's regional economy was among the fastest growing in the country, and that the central government has poured about 1.4 billion yuan ($210 million) into restoring Tibetan cultural relics and refurbishing key monasteries.

But at least 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing's presence in Tibet, most of whom later died.

China's investment in the region includes a huge outlay on security to build a surveillance state that makes it harder to organise protests.

Rights groups say that a government campaign targeting the family and friends of protesters has also helped suppress dissent.

Beijing has also restricted access to the region for journalists, diplomats and foreign visitors citing "special geographic" and "climatic conditions".

The Dalai Lama, who gave up his political role in 2011 but remains based in Dharamsala, has gained worldwide respect for his pacifist approach, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

He remains a thorn in the side to China, which adamantly rejects any suggestion of Tibetan autonomy and blacklisted the spiritual leader as a dangerous "separatist".

(Published 27 March 2019, 11:19 IST)

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