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China says only socialism can "save" Tibet

March 9, 2010

Ben Blanchard
Reuters
Mar 7, 2010

BEIJING (Reuters) -- The new Chinese-appointed
governor of Tibet said on Sunday that only
socialism can "save" the remote region and
guarantee its development, and blamed the Dalai Lama for Tibet's problems.

China has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet,
saying not only did it free a million Tibetan
serfs but it also poured billions of dollars into
the Himalayan region for development.

Padma Choling, an ethnic Tibetan appointed
governor in January, blamed the region's problems
on exiled spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize
winner the Dalai Lama, a man reviled by Beijing
as a "separatist" and instigator of anti-Chinese violence.

"The main source of instability in Tibet is the
Dalai Lama, and it is also he who causes trouble
for Tibet's economic development and
socio-economic progress," Padma Choling told
reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament.

"But I have to say, we are not the least bit
scared ... as all the peoples of Tibet have
already clearly realized that only the Chinese
Communist Party and socialism can save Tibet, and
only then can Tibet develop," he said in impeccable Chinese.

Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese
rule in March 2008 gave way to torrid violence,
with rioters torching shops and turning on
residents, especially Han Chinese, who many
Tibetans see as intruders threatening their culture.

At least 19 people died in the 2008 unrest, which
sparked waves of protests across Tibetan areas.
Pro-Tibet groups overseas say more than 200
people were killed in a subsequent crackdown.

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in
1959 after an abortive uprising, denies China's
charges against him, and says he only seeks more meaningful autonomy for Tibet.

Several rounds of talks in recent years between
the Chinese Communist Party and the Dalai Lama's envoys have yielded little.

REINCARNATION POLITICS

Uncertainty also surrounds what will happen once
the aging Dalai Lama passes away.

The Dalai Lama has floated several scenarios,
including that his successor and reincarnation
may not be found in Chinese-controlled territory.

Many Tibetans and pro-Tibet groups fear Beijing
will simply announce its own Dalai Lama, as it
did with the Panchen Lama, Tibetan's Buddhism's
second-highest figure, in 1995. The Dalai Lama's
choice for Panchen Lama, a six-year-old boy, was
swiftly picked up and taken away by the Chinese authorities.

Human rights groups dubbed the child then "the
world's youngest political prisoner."

Padma Choling said that boy was a "victim" of the
Dalai Lama's unilateral decision in 1995 to
recognize him as the 11th Panchen Lama, and that
he was now living a quiet life in Tibet, out of the public gaze.

The governor also poked fun at what he said was
the Dalai Lama's indecision on his succession.

"One minute he says he will be reincarnated, the
next he won't ... One minute he says it can
happen within China, the next it will happen
overseas," he said. "I don't know which one is accurate.

"The Dalai Lama is still alive, let's talk about
it (his reincarnation) again when he dies," the governor added.

China earlier this year held a work conference to
decide future direction in Tibet, which was
notable for covering all Tibetan areas, and not
just those governed by the Tibet Autonomous
Region. The wider scope may be a response to the 2008 uprising.

A similar work conference would be held for
Xinjiang, the governor of that region said on Sunday, without giving details.

Xinjiang's capital Urumqi was the scene of deadly
riots in July by Uighurs, a Muslim,
Turkic-speaking people native to the arid region,
after Han Chinese in south China attacked Uighur
workers at a factory. Han residents of Urumqi
attacked in revenge two days later.

Since those riots, 198 people have been tried in
97 cases, governor Nuer Baikeli told reporters.
He did not give details on the fate of 20 Uighurs
who had sought asylum from the U.N. refugee
office in Phnom Penh in December, who were deported by Cambodia back to China.

"The press conference was a pretence to trick
outsiders," World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilshat Raxit told Reuters.

"Uighur people want to decide for themselves how to run their affairs."

(Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby)
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