BEIJING - China's top official for ethnic affairs indicated there will be no softening of the Communist Party's struggle against the Dalai Lama by the country's new leadership.
The Dalai Lama has deviated from Tibetan Buddhist tradition and remains intent on splitting Tibet from China, the party's fourth-ranking official, Yu Zhengsheng, said Tuesday on a visit to a Tibetan area of the western province of Gansu.
Yu said the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader's proposal for a "middle way" of meaningful autonomy for all traditionally Tibetan areas is in opposition to China's constitution and policies on self-governance by ethnic minorities.
"In order to safeguard national unity and the development and stability of Tibetan regions, we must open a clear and profound struggle against the Dalai clique," Yu said, employing Beijing's standard term for the Dalai Lama and his followers.
Tibetan Buddhists must draw a clear political line between themselves and the Dalai Lama, oppose all forms of separatism, and actions harmful to the party's leadership and the socialist system, he said. The speech was reported on the central government's official website.
China says it has made vast investments to boost the region's economy and improve the quality of life for the country's 5.4 million Tibetans. Much of Yu's speech focused on those measures, while he also pledged to expand the use of Mandarin Chinese alongside Tibetan in education to improve job prospects.
Many Tibetans say those policies have largely benefited Chinese migrants and resent strict limits on Buddhism and Tibetan culture. The region remains highly volatile despite a massive security presence in both the Tibetan Autonomous Region and traditionally Tibetan areas of western China.
Recent years have seen the self-immolation of a reported 119 Tibetans in protest at Chinese rule and repeated clashes at Buddhist monasteries and Tibetan town.
Reports said Chinese paramilitary police fired on Tibetans seeking to commemorate the Dalai Lama's 78th birthday on Saturday, injuring at least six people.
The Dalai Lama says he wants only meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than independence. China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were largely independent prior to the 1950 occupation by communist troops.