By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN,
Associated Press Writer
BEIJING - The Dalai Lama could "never represent the Tibetan people," state media quoted Tibet's Chinese-appointed governor saying, sounding a harsh note Wednesday that contrasted with signs of a possible thaw between China and Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
Legqog also condemned the Dalai Lama's visit last week to Mongolia, calling it "further evidence he intends to spread his separatist views in the international arena under the cloak of religion."
"The Dalai Lama has never stopped engaging in activities aimed at splitting China," Legqog, who uses only one name, was quoted saying in the English-language China Daily.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after an uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, eight years after communist forces occupied the region. China claims Tibet as Chinese territory, but many Tibetans argue it was a separate country.
China shuns the Dalai Lama, who lives in India, and seeks to isolate him internationally.
However, the sides made their first direct contact in nine years this year when a pair of high-ranking Tibetan officials visited Beijing and Tibet. China also allowed the Dalai Lama's brother to visit Tibet and released Tibetan political prisoners, fueling speculation of a possible thaw in relations.
Those moves prompted the Dalai Lama to say last month that China had sent "positive indications" for a possible renewal of dialogue.
Legqog's remarks, however, echoed China's relentless efforts to vilify the Dalai Lama. China says the Dalai Lama abandoned Tibet and betrayed his subjects and accuses the Tibetan government-in-exile of opposing Tibet's evolution from a feudal theocracy to what China touts as a model of development.
"The Dalai Lama can never represent the Tibetan people and he has not done anything beneficial to Tibet," Legqog said.
Critics say China locks up peaceful opponents of its rule in Tibet and is diluting Tibetan culture through large-scale migration of Chinese.
Without citing examples, Legqog dismissed such criticisms as "unwarranted accusations," saying they were "totally groundless."
Legqog said Tibet's economy grew by 12.8 percent last year, considerably higher than the national average, and its residents enjoyed higher-than-average annual incomes of US$930. He said the central government would plow almost US$4.5 billion into energy, transpiration, telecommunications and other projects in Tibet over the next few years.
China suspended rail service with landlocked Mongolia for two days while it hosted the Dalai Lama, driving up the world price of copper, Mongolia's main export. Chinese officials blamed "technical problems" for the suspension, but copper industry executives said it was retribution.
The Dalai Lama visited monasteries and lectured on Buddhist philosophy during his three-day visit to Mongolia. He also reiterated his claim of seeking only self-rule for Tibet, not full independence.
Legqog dismissed that stance as a ruse.
"Knowing that his separatist stance has no place in the world today ... the Dalai Lama now adopts a new strategy of playing down separatist sentiments while trumpeting the highest degree of autonomy," he said.