China rebukes Dalai Lama for seeking Tibetan independence

A senior Chinese official hasdenounced the Dalai Lama's long-standing pursuit of autonomy forTibet, describing it as equivalent to advocating Tibetanindependence, state media said on Saturday.

The comments by Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic andreligious affairs committee of the top advisory body toparliament, signal that China would probably refuse to pursue acompromise with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after an abortiveuprising against Chinese rule, is considered a violentseparatist by Beijing. The India-based Dalai Lama says he ismerely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

"In the fundamental sense, 'high-level autonomy' meansTibet's independence," Zhu was quoted as saying in the ChinaDaily newspaper. "It is separated into two steps. The first stepis so-called autonomy. The second one is actual independence."

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