China says to get tough after Tibetan burnings

BEIJING - China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday the government of a restive, heavily Tibetan part of the country would take tough measures to ensure stability after a spate of self-immolations in protest at Chinese controls.
At least nine people have set fire to themselves in Tibetan parts of China in recent months, mostly in Aba in the southwestern province of Sichuan, to protest Chinese rule and what they say are restrictions on their culture and faith.
This week, Tibet's prime minister-in-exile blamed China's hard-line position for forcing Tibetans to take such desperate steps. But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeated that the government would continue to carry out a policy of freedom of religion. There was no such thing as a "Tibet problem" as pushed by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Jiang added.
"China firmly opposes ethnic separatism, will resolutely protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and firmly opposes any country using the excuse of the so-called Tibet problem to interfere in China's internal affairs."
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama denies espousing violence, insisting he wants only real autonomy for his homeland, from which he fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He is based in northern India.
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