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China slams Dalai Lama’s announcement to step down as Tibetan political leader

posted 10 Mar 2011, 02:29 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Mar 2011, 02:32 ]

China says the announcement by exiled leader Dalai Lama that he is to step down as the political leader of the Tibetan people is a conspiracy to deceive the international community.

BEIJING, CHINA (MARCH 10, 2011) REUTERS - China on Thursday (March 10) slammed the exiled Dalai Lama's announcement that he is to step down as the political leader of the Tibetan people, saying it was a conspiracy to deceive the international community.

Earlier on Thursday, the Dalai Lama announced his plan to formally step down as the political leader of Tibetan people. He made the announcement while addressing his followers in the Indian foothill town of Dharamsala to mark the 52nd anniversary of their failed uprising against China.

The widely anticipated move was seen as modernising the Tibetan government-in-exile in the face of Chinese pressure.

But in Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu blasted the Dalai Lama's comments, saying he was a political exile who used religion as a disguise.

"The Dalai Lama uses religion as a disguise and he is a political exile who has been carrying out separatist activities for a long time. He is the ringleader of a political organization which is involved in Tibetan independence activities. For years he has been expressing his intention to retire. We think these are tricks to deceive the international community," Jiang told reporters at a foreign ministry briefing.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, now lives in exile in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala and advocates "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet within China.

Beijing regards the Lama as a dangerous separatist responsible for stirring up unrest in Tibet.

"The Dalai Lama's government in exile is an illegal political organization which no country in the world recognizes. I believe everybody is well-aware of our policy towards Tibetan autonomous region. China will consistently improve and perfect policies and continuously support economic and social development in Tibet and other regions with a Tibetan population. At the same time, China will adapt measures to guarantee the interest of each ethnic group in Tibet," Jiang said.

In Dharamsala, Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile urged the Dalai Lama to reconsider his decision to step down as their political leader.

"Vast majority of the Tibetan people inside and outside still don't feel competent to take over and to become independent of Dalai Lama. That is very difficult to think. So, we are still asking his holiness to postpone it," Rinpoche said.

The 76-year-old Dalai Lama has long seen himself as "semi-retired" from political leadership with an elected prime minister already in place in Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama remains Tibet's spiritual leader.

But the formal move, which still needs to be ratified by the parliament-in-exile based in India on Monday (March 14) next week, should give a new prime minister to be elected this month greater clout on the world stage as they seek Tibetan autonomy from Beijing.