Chinese President: Tibet is Entirely an Internal Issue

April 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line Saturday in his first remarks on the recent unrest in Tibet, saying the matter is an internal affair that directly threatens Chinese sovereignty. Hu's comments to visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came at a meeting on the sidelines of a regional economic forum in the southern province of Hainan.

"Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Hu as saying, referring to supporters of Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing blames for fomenting the unrest. "It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland."

In a later speech to the Boao Forum for Asia, Hu stressed China's belief in "peaceful development" and non-intervention in other countries' affairs.

"China does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs, nor does it try to impose its own will on others," he said.

His remarks follow massive demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists and other groups targeting the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. The protests have stirred anger from the government in Beijing and among Chinese citizens.

Also Saturday, Chinese legislators blasted a European Parliament resolution that calls on its 27 governments to explore "the option of nonattendance" at the Olympics if China continues to refuse to engage the Dalai Lama.

The Foreign Affairs Committee under the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, said in a statement that the parliament's "unfounded accusation" constituted "arrogant interference in China's domestic affairs and will damage Sino-Europe relations."

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced he would skip the ceremony. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have also said they plan to stay away, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.

As Tibet's former Communist Party boss, Hu enforced a harsh crackdown against the last major anti-government protests there in 1989. He has tightened Chinese rule over the Himalayan region since taking over as president in 2003, stepping-up controls over Tibetan Buddhism and increasingly opened the region to travel and migration from other parts of China.

The latest round of Tibetan protests began peacefully among Buddhist monks in Lhasa on March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising in which the Dalai Lama fled to India. Four days later they turned violent, with hundreds of shops torched and Chinese civilians attacked.

China says 22 people were killed in the riots, many in arson attacks, and over 1,000 detained. The Dalai Lama's India-based government-in-exile says more than 140 people were killed.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said a U.S. House resolution passed Wednesday "crudely interfered in China's internal politics, seriously hurting the feelings of the Chinese people."

The resolution sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Beijing to "end its crackdown on nonviolent Tibetan protesters," along with cultural, religious, economic and linguistic "repression."

Chinese state media also lashed out at the Tibetan Youth Congress, accusing it of orchestrating recent protests in a bid to overthrow Chinese rule and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.


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