This week’s Party Congress in Beijing occasioned a press conference on Saturday in which the head of the Communist Party’s Tibet working group further elucidated the party line on Tibetan spiritual leader-in-exile the Dalai Lama.
China will not take kindly to the excuse deployed by foreign officials meeting with the recipient of the 1989 Noble Peace Prize — or in the Party’s preferred parlance, that “radical separatist,” “wolf in monk’s robes,” “demon,” “spiritual terrorist” — that they are doing so in a strictly personal capacity, Reuters reported.
The Party has long made it clear that it regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist political figure, not a spiritual one and pilloried countries that grant the monk’s requests to visit, occasionally even flexing its economic leverage to dissuade foreign leaders from welcoming him.
Last year, after the Dalai Lama spent six days in Ulaanbaatar, China shuttered a strategic border crossing and suspended talks about extending a $4.2 billion loan to Mongolia. In the midst of an economic crisis, just five years removed from posting a 17% GDP growth rate, Mongolia capitulated and barred the Dalai Lama’s return.
In August it appeared that Botswana would become the next country heavily reliant on Chinese investment to risk the stability of its relationship to China by hosting the Dalai Lama. Slated to attend a conference in Gaborone as a “foreign dignitary,” the 82-year-old monk cancelled his trip at the last minute, citing “exhaustion,” against the backdrop of a series of ominous warnings issued by the Chinese foreign ministry.
In advance of an April visit by the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, a region of India bordering Tibet that China claims as disputed territory, Beijing signaled to the Indian government that the trip could jeopardize their “bilateral relations.” A day after the Dalai Lama’s departure from Tawang, the town in Arunachal where he first fled into exile in 1959, China reiterated its territorial claims, announcing that it had renamed six areas in the region.
“Although some people say, the Dalai is a religious figure, our government didn’t put in an appearance, it was just individual officials, this is incorrect,” Zhang Yijiong, the head of the CCP’s Tibet working group, said on Saturday.
“Officials, in their capacity as officials, attending all foreign-related activities represent their governments,” he went on, according to Reuters. “So I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty.”
The optics of foreign leaders palling around with a “wolf in monk’s robes” is jarring to Beijing. “Some politicians in some countries met with the Dalai Lama,” Zhang said, according to The Global Times, “which hurt the Chinese people’s feelings and broke their promise to the Chinese government.”