China reaffirms its sovereignty over Tibet

September 24, 1992|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- Defending its grip on Tibet, China has attacked th Tibetan independence movement as an imperialist conspiracy to wrest the Himalayan country from Chinese control.

The attack came in a lengthy "white paper" published by China's State Council, the equivalent of its executive cabinet.

The position paper reiterates the long-standing Chinese position that the Dalai Lama -- the Tibetan religious leader who has lived in exile in India since 1959 -- is welcome to return home as long as he recognizes China's total control over the region.

As with two similarly elaborate and contentious position papers issued over the past year -- on China's human rights record and on its treatment of prisoners -- the main purpose of the white paper appears to be to rebut Western criticisms.

The position paper on Tibet follows reports this summer from the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile that China has made new attempts to negotiate a political settlement of the Tibetan question.

The Dalai Lama reportedly proposed last month that China give Tibet a special administrative status with its own political system. The status would be similar to that Hong Kong will receive in 1997, when Beijing takes back the British colony.

The position paper also attempts to counter claims by Tibetan nationalists and Western human-rights activists that China has been flooding Tibet with Han Chinese in an effort to dilute the influence of ethnic Tibetans.

The activists also claim that China has been polluting Tibet by storing nuclear wastes there and that freedom of religion is limited there.

According to a report in May by Amnesty International, Chinese authorities in recent years have been torturing imprisoned Tibetan independence activists and even murdering some participants in small, peaceful demonstrations there.

These alleged killings are in addition to several hundred civilians known to have been killed by Chinese security forces during a series of sometimes violent, pro-independence protests between 1987 and 1990 in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. Lhasa was under martial law for a year until spring 1990.

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