China effectively rules out talks with new exiled Tibet PM

Reuters, 13 May 2011

(Reuters) – China has effectively ruled out dialogue with the Tibetan government-in-exile’s new prime minister, saying it will only meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama and will limit any talks to the Tibetan spiritual leader’s future.

The remarks by Zhu Weiqun, a vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department — which has led unsuccessful on-off talks with the Dalai Lama’s envoys — are Beijing’s strongest reaction yet to the election of Harvard law scholar Lobsang Sangay as Tibet’s new prime minister in exile.

In excerpts of Zhu’s interview, carried on the website of the China News Service on Thursday ahead of publication in state-owned magazine “China’s Tibet” this weekend, Zhu said the exiled government was an illegal group with no recognition.

“We have two basic points when it comes to contacts and negotiations. The first is that the capacity of the other side can only be as the Dalai Lama’s private representatives,” the article cited Zhu as saying.

“It does not matter who is the ‘kalon tripa’ (prime minister) of his ‘government in exile’, they are a splittist political clique that has betrayed the motherland. There is nothing legal about them and they have no qualifications to ‘talk’ with the central government’s representatives,” he added.

Sangay told Reuters in an interview this week that he was willing to negotiate with Beijing “anytime, anywhere,” suggesting his leadership would not be significantly different from that of the Dalai Lama.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama said in March he would relinquish the four-century old tradition of political guidance in favor of a popularly elected leader by the Tibetan diaspora.

In giving up his political powers, the 75-year-old has made it more difficult for China to influence the course of the independence movement after his death, analysts say.

Zhu, whose department oversees the Party’s dealings with religious organizations, said the only meaningful thing the exiled government could do was dissolve itself.

“Everyone knows what the central government’s long-standing policy is: provided the Dalai Lama genuinely abandons his ‘Tibet independence’ stance … we can talk about his personal future,” Zhu said.

“The content of negotiations can only be about the Dalai Lama’s future, or at most that of a few of his personal aides,” he said.

Zhu said that he felt “regret” the Dalai Lama had “deviated from the good things he had once done for the country.”

The Dalai Lama was still “the head of the political clique which seeks Tibet’s independence, the loyal tool of anti-China international forces, the main source of social unrest in Tibet,” Zhu added.

The Dalai Lama denies he supports either violence or Tibetan independence, insisting he seeks only true autonomy for the remote region, ruled with an iron fist by China for the last six decades.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, which sits in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, fears China will use the thorny issue of succession to split the movement.