A Day After Offer to Meet, China Assails Dalai Lama

By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, April 27, 2008

BEIJING, April 26 -- Less than 24 hours after China offered to meet with an envoy of the Dalai Lama, state-controlled news media on Saturday kept up their campaign of denunciations of the Tibetan spiritual leader.

"The behavior of the Dalai clique has seriously violated fundamental teaching and commandments of Buddhism, undermined the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism and ruined its reputation," the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper reported.

China Daily, the official English-language newspaper, published an interview with Lahlu Tsewang Dorje, a Tibetan who fought on the Dalai Lama's side in a failed 1959 uprising, according to the paper, and later became a top political adviser to the Chinese Tibetan authorities. "I think the Dalai clique is our enemy and we should fight until the end," he was quoted as saying.

The tone of the articles raised questions about China's seriousness in preparing for negotiations with the Dalai Lama over restoring stability to Tibet, which has essentially been under government lockdown since deadly rioting in Lhasa, its capital, on March 14.

Rather than stepping back from its hammering of the "Dalai clique" for instigating the violence in an attempt to split the country and sabotage this summer's Olympic Games, China continued to hit hard. "The Lhasa March 14 incident is another ugly performance meticulously plotted by the Dalai clique to seek Tibet independence," said the Tibet Daily, another Communist Party newspaper.

The Chinese government has been under intense international pressure to begin talks with the Dalai Lama, who is honored in the West as a man of peace and who denies advocating violence or trying to divide the country or jeopardize the Beijing Games. Global leaders are facing growing calls to boycott the Games' opening ceremony on Aug. 8 if Beijing refuses.

The two sides have met off and on for decades, most recently last summer, without making progress on key issues, including whether the Dalai Lama can ever return to Tibet and what a new Tibetan autonomous region within China would look like. The Chinese government said Friday it would meet with an envoy of the Dalai Lama and determine whether conditions were ripe to begin talks.

The official New China News Agency reported Saturday that the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the head of the European Commission had all praised China's offer to meet.

"It's too early to tell if the meeting will produce results or is just for PR purposes in advance of the Olympics," said Mary Beth Markey of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

In its formal response Friday to China's offer, the Dalai Lama's government in exile, in Dharmsala, India, stressed that China's personal attacks had to stop before meaningful dialogue could begin. On Saturday, spokesman Thubten Samphel said, "This continuing vilification of His Holiness does not resolve the issue" of bringing peace and stability to Tibetan regions.

"The Chinese authorities are really wasting their time and effort in terms of changing Tibetans' attitude toward the Dalai Lama," he added.

The attacks on the Dalai Lama "can be seen as pre-negotiation tactics designed in part to bolster domestic nationalism and at the same time to weaken his position in any future talks," Robbie Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University, told Reuters news service.

The news of possible talks sparked some debate in Chinese online discussion forums.

"This shows the government is soft," one person wrote. "It sends a very clear signal to the outside world that if you have power overseas, then you can come to China to mastermind a riot."

Another person said the move was simple pragmatism: "Now we have to stabilize the situation. After the Olympics, no one will care about the Dalai Lama."

Researcher Liu Liu contributed to this report.

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