BEIJING — China has quashed talk of a rapprochement with the Dalai Lama, insisting that greater autonomy for Tibet is “not up for discussion,” accusing him of consistently inciting violence within the region and demanding that he seek forgiveness for attempting to split China.
In a fiercely worded white paper on Tibet released Wednesday, China also demanded that Tibet’s exiled religious leader publicly acknowledge that the region has been part of China “since antiquity,” something that scholars say is neither true nor a condition that the Dalai Lama could possibly accept.
In October, the 79-year-old Dalai Lama told The Washington Post that informal talks were taking place with the Chinese government over his possible return to his homeland, if only for a visit, and he praised President Xi Jinping as a realist. Other media reports suggested that moderate elements within the Chinese leadership might be exploring the possibility of a rapprochement.
But many scholars were skeptical at the time, and the government’s latest report showed that Beijing’s position is as uncompromising as ever — if not more so — and its vitriol unrelenting.
“Any negotiations will be limited to seeking solutions for the Dalai Lama to completely abandon separatist claims and activities and gain the forgiveness of the central government and the Chinese people, and to working out what he will do with the rest of his life,” the report said.
“Only when he makes a public statement acknowledging that Tibet has been an integral part of China since antiquity, and abandons his stance on independence and his attempts to divide China, can he improve his relationship with the central government in any meaningful sense,” it added. “The central government hopes the Dalai Lama will put aside his illusions in his remaining years and face up to reality.”
The Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959, has long denied that he is seeking independence, aiming instead for a “high degree of autonomy” in an approach he has termed the “Middle Way.” The Chinese government called this stance “a mask that conceals the true aim of realizing complete independence.”
In previous white papers, the government has insisted that the Dalai Lama acknowledge that Tibet is an inalienable part of China. Now it wants him to say it has been one “since antiquity.”
“I once discussed this with the Dalai Lama, and he said this claim is simply false and he cannot agree to something that is false,” said Michael Davis, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. “Historians clearly agree with him, as widely reflected in the literature.”
China took control of Tibet in 1950 and has since engaged in a brutal campaign of religious, political and cultural repression, according to human rights groups. China says that it liberated the Tibetan people from “theocratic feudal serfdom.”
China accused the “Dalai group” of organizing protests by Tibetans in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, in which it says 18 people were burned or hacked to death and 382 were injured, and of encouraging acts meant to sabotage the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
It also accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging “deluded lamas and lay followers to engage in self-immolation.” More than 130 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas of China since 2009 to protest China’s repressive policies, according to overseas pro-Tibetan groups.
The Dalai Lama has blamed China’s “cultural genocide” for the self-immolations. While not condemning the self-immolations, he insists that he is not encouraging them, saying they take “very strong courage” but may not be wise, as they only provoke more repression.
Last week, Yeshi Khando, a 47-year-old nun, is reported to have set herself on fire near a police station in a Tibetan part of Sichuan province, shouting slogans including, “Tibet needs freedom.”
The Tibetan “government in exile,” based in the Indian town of Dharamsala, called the white paper a “frenzied” attempt to whitewash a tragic reality and said it indicated “the Chinese government’s nervousness over its grip on occupied Tibet.”
But scholars said it reflected Beijing’s view that it was firmly in control and saw no need to compromise.
“The white paper makes it clear that China’s position has remained steady, and talk of a growing moderate faction on Tibet within the leadership has been naive or even disingenuous on the part of commentators, and self-deceptive or cynical on the part of the exile leadership,” said Elliot Sperling, an expert on Tibet at Indiana University.
“China sees the game as mostly over, with a few odds and ends remaining that it can weather with little discomfort,” he added.
As the Dalai Lama ages, Beijing also thinks it has time on its side. It is almost certainly planning to engineer the Dalai Lama’s succession, to raise a young leader more favorably inclined toward its rule, and promote him over any rival chosen by the exile community.
But the Dalai Lama irritated China recently by suggesting that he might not reincarnate.
Officials from the avowedly atheist Communist Party responded by accusing the Dalai Lama of betraying his religion, and insisting that the party itself, not the Dalai Lama, would decide whether he would be reborn.
Liu Liu contributed to this report.