BEIJING — The leader of Chinese-ruled Tibet urged police to crack down on the "separatist" activities of the Dalai Lama in remarks published Wednesday, after the monk repeated his support for regional autonomy.
The region's Communist Party secretary Zhang Qingli equated peace and prosperity in Tibet with wiping out forces hostile to the party in the region, according to a statement posted on the Tibetan government's website.
"We must guardedly prevent and severely strike every separatist and harmful activity of the Dalai (Lama) clique," Zhang was quoted as telling police and armed police forces on Tuesday.
China has long accused the Dalai Lama -- Tibet's spiritual leader who fled into exile in 1959 -- of seeking an independent Tibet, accusations that the Nobel Peace Prize winner has repeatedly denied.
On Monday, while on a visit to the United States, the Dalai Lama again voiced confidence that Tibetans supported his "Middle Way" of seeking greater rights in Tibet, but staying under China's rule.
"We must never go just half way, we must strike awe into the hostile forces, and build a peaceful and auspicious atmosphere for society and ensure social stability for the entire region," Zhang said.
His remarks come as the Asian nation marks the 60th anniversary of its "peaceful liberation of Tibet" which officially became part of the People's Republic of China in 1951, one year after troops marched on the region.
But tensions run deep in Tibet, where many Tibetans accuse the government of trying to dilute their culture, and cite concern about what they view as increasing domination by China's majority Han ethnic group.
Disquiet spilled over into violent anti-government riots in Tibet's capital Lhasa in March 2008, which then spread to neighbouring provinces with significant Tibetan populations.
"Our fight against separatism and our efforts to safeguard social stability remain very serious," Zhang said in his remarks.
"The region's party, politicians, military, police and people must fully recognise the serious nature of the anti-separatist battle that we are facing in our work to maintain social stability."