China warned on Saturday that it would consider as a “major offence” if any country or foreign leader hosts or meets the Dalai Lama as it deems the Tibetan spiritual leader a “separatist” trying to split Tibet from it.
Foreign leaders can’t think they can get away with meeting the exiled leader just because they are doing it in a personal capacity, as they still represent their government, a senior Chinese official said.
China considers the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, to be a dangerous separatist. The Nobel Peace Prize winning monk says he simply seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.
“Any country or any organisation of anyone to accept to meet with the Dalai Lama in our view is a major offence to the sentiment of the Chinese people,” said Zhang Yijiong, executive vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
China routinely protests world leaders meeting the Dalai Lama. It also makes it mandatory for all the foreign governments to recognise Tibet as part of China to have diplomatic relations with Beijing.
It protested when the Tibetan spiritual leader was permitted by India to visit various areas in the north- east, including Arunachal Pradesh, this year.
Visits by the Dalai Lama to foreign countries infuriate China, and fewer and fewer national leaders are willing to meet him, fearing the consequences of Chinese anger, though some have tried to placate Beijing by saying they are meeting him in a personal not official capacity.
Zhang Yijiong told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress that there could be no excuses to meeting the Dalai Lama.
“Although some people say, the Dalai is a religious figure, our government didn’t put in an appearance, it was just individual officials, this is incorrect,” said Zhang, who is also a vice minister at the United Front Work Department, which has led failed talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives.
“Officials, in their capacity as officials, attending all foreign-related activities represent their governments. So I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty,” he added.
China took control of Tibet in 1950 in what it calls a “peaceful liberation” and has piled pressure on foreign governments to shun the Dalai Lama, using economic means to punish those who allow him in.
China strongly denies accusations of rights abuses in Tibet, saying its rule has brought prosperity to what was a remote and backward region, and that it fully respects the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people.
Zhang, who worked in Tibet from 2006-2010 as a deputy Communist Party boss, said that Tibetan Buddhism was a special religion “born in our ancient China”.
“It’s a Chinese religion. It didn’t come in from the outside,” he said.