- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

BOAO, China — Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line yesterday in his first remarks on the recent unrest in Tibet, saying the matter is an internal affair that directly threatens Chinese sovereignty.

Mr. Hu’s comments to visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd were made at a meeting on the sidelines of a regional economic forum in the southern province of Hainan.

“Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem,” the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Mr. Hu as saying, referring to supporters of Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing blames for fomenting the unrest. “It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland.”

In a later speech to the Boao Forum for Asia, Mr. Hu stressed China’s belief in “peaceful development” and non-intervention in other countries’ affairs.

“China does not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, nor does it try to impose its own will on others,” he said.

His remarks follow massive demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists and other groups targeting the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The protests have stirred anger from the government in Beijing and among Chinese citizens.

As Tibet’s former Communist Party boss, Mr. Hu enforced a harsh crackdown against the last major anti-government protests there in 1989. He has tightened Chinese rule over the Himalayan region since taking over as president in 2003.

The latest round of Tibetan protests began peacefully among Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 10, and turned violent four days later.

China says 22 people were killed in the riots, many in arson attacks, and over 1,000 detained. The Dalai Lama’s India-based government-in-exile says more than 140 people were killed.

Xinhua also reported yesterday that Chinese police have arrested nine Buddhist monks suspected of bombing a government building in Tibet on March 23. The monks from the Tongxia Monastery in Gyanbe Township had confessed to the crime, Xinhua added.

China has accused Tibetan groups of planning suicide attacks following last month’s riots and protests, but this appeared to be the first report of a bomb attack during the unrest.

Chinese officials have said that groups campaigning for independence in Tibet have joined Muslim Uighurs fighting for an independent “East Turkestan” in Xinjiang, northwest China.

A mainland-backed paper in Hong Kong reported last week that Tibetan and Uighur forces were also collaborating with al Qaeda to target the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.

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