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China’s Wen defends Tibet policies

Premier Wen Jiabao said Tibet was prospering under Chinese rule, as he hit back at the Dalai Lama who this week said his Himalayan homeland had turned into “hell on earth”.

world Updated: Mar 13, 2009 14:15 IST

Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday Tibet was prospering under Chinese rule, as he hit back at the Dalai Lama who this week said his Himalayan homeland had turned into “hell on earth”.

Wen also signalled China would maintain its hardline stance against the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, saying future talks rested on him dropping his bid for independence, a charge the Nobel Peace Prize winner has long denied.

“The situation in Tibet is on the whole peaceful and stable,” Wen told a press conference at the end of China’s annual parliamentary session in Beijing.

After this week’s 50th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule passed amid tight security to prevent unrest in the Himalayan region, Wen defended China’s leadership there.

“It is a fact that Tibet’s peace and stability and continued progress have proven that the policies we have adopted are correct,” he said.

Armed Chinese security forces sealed off Tibet and neighbouring areas with Tibetan populations during the anniversary of an uprising in 1959 which forced the Dalai Lama into exile and cemented Chinese control.

The crackdown fuelled criticism from rights and press groups, as well as foreign governments such as the United States, which called this week for China to reassess its “harmful” Tibet policies and to open talks with the Dalai Lama.

However, Wen went on the attack, accusing the Dalai Lama of lying, trying to deceive foreign leaders in a bid for international support and heading an “illegal” government in exile in India.

“The Dalai Lama has been travelling the world and is quite capable of misleading some political figures in other countries. Some western countries are also willing to use him,” Wen said.

He repeated China’s position that it would resume contacts with the Dalai Lama’s government in exile only if he stopped trying to win independence for his homeland.

“As long as he abandons separatist activities, we are willing to carry out consultations with his representatives. This door is always open,” Wen said.

China has long accused the Dalai Lama of scheming to subvert Chinese control in a bid for Tibetan independence.

The spiritual leader has repeatedly denied the charge, saying he only seeks more autonomy for Tibet’s people through negotiations, plus an end to Chinese repression.

In a speech from his exiled base in Dharamshala on Tuesday to mark the uprising’s anniversary, the Dalai Lama said violent Chinese repression had made his homeland a “hell on earth”.

“Even on Friday, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear. Their religion, culture, language, identity are near extinction,” he said, adding Chinese repression had led to the deaths of “hundreds of thousands” of his people.

Wen signalled that China would push ahead with its controversial policies of pouring billions of dollars into Tibet to develop the region.

“Tibet will remain committed firmly to the policy of opening up because this meets the needs of Tibet’s own development,” he said.

The Dalai Lama and other critics of China’s rule in Tibet say so-called development has brought in a massive influx of Han Chinese people, eroded Tibetan culture and damaged the region’s environment.

Before Chinese communist troops poured into Tibet in 1951 to “liberate” it from feudal rule, the remote region was an extremely closed society whose leaders cherished its isolation and unique Buddhist culture.