Image: Chinese official
Ng Han Guan  /  AP
Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the United Front, the Chinese government department in charge of talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, gives a press conference in Beijing, China, on Monday.
updated 11/10/2008 6:29:30 AM ET 2008-11-10T11:29:30

China said Monday that no progress was made at recent talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, slamming the Tibetan leader's demands for greater autonomy as a mask covering a campaign for the Himalayan region's independence.

"The sovereignty is the most fundamental issue. The Dalai has — by denying Chinese sovereignty over Tibet — been trying to seek a legal basis for his claims of independence or semi-independence for Tibet," said Zhu Weiqun, a vice minister of the United Front, the government department in charge of the talks.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, says he does not seek Tibetan independence from China but wants meaningful autonomy that would ensure the survival of the region's unique Buddhist culture.

However, in a string of recent comments, the Tibetan spiritual leader has sounded increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for such a deal and called a special meeting of Tibetan exile communities and political organizations to discuss the future of their struggle.

Envoys of the Dalai Lama have said they would not comment on last week's talks until after the meeting of Tibetan groups, to be held Nov. 17-22 in Dharmsala, India.

Many Tibetans insist they were an independent nation before Communist troops invaded in 1950, while Beijing says the Himalayan region has been part of its territory for centuries.

Both sides have accused the other of being not serious about resolving the Tibetan issue.

Zhu said that talks would be successful only if the Dalai Lama gives up what Zhu said was his bid to split the country.

"However, the door for Tibet independence, half independence and disguised independence have never been open and never will be open in the future," Zhu told a news conference.

Olympic protest accusations
Zhu also accused the Dalai Lama of ignoring an appeal from Beijing in July to stop efforts by some overseas Tibetan groups to disrupt the Beijing Olympics in August.

"Not only did the activities to damage Beijing Olympics not stop, but they escalated. The responsibility is on the Dalai's side that the talks failed to make progress," he said.

Last week's meeting was the third round of talks since anti-government riots rocked Tibet's capital, Lhasa, in March.

Beijing says the protests were part of a violent campaign by the Dalai Lama and his supporters to overthrow Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Olympics. The Dalai Lama has denied involvement in the violence.

China responded with a massive crackdown in Tibet and the surrounding region in which exile groups say at least 140 people were killed and more than 1,000 were detained.

But activists — many of them foreigners — continued to stage small protests in Beijing during the Olympics.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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