Opposing the Dalai Lama, the “highest priority”

3rd October 2016

Party officials aim to marginalise Dalai Lama inside and outside Tibet

The top Chinese Communist Party official in Tibet has announced that opposing the Dalai Lama must be the “highest priority”.

Wu Yingjie, who recently became the Party Secretary for the Tibetan Autonomous Region, made the announcement last Friday during a speech at a party conference on national unity in Lhasa. In the speech, he announced:

“First, we must deepen the struggle against the Dalai Lama clique, make it the highest priority in carrying out our ethnic affairs, and the long-term mission of strengthening ethnic unity."

Wu Yingjie added that he would:

"thoroughly expose the reactionary nature of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, crack down on separatist and subversive activities, and strive to eliminate at their roots harmful elements that damage ethnic unity."

Threats and isolation

The Chinese government has repeatedly criticised the Dalai Lama, accusing him of being a “splittist” who seeks to break up China by seeking Tibetan independence. This is despite the Dalai Lama having been an advocate for more than three decades of the 'Middle Way' approach, which would secure genuine autonomy for Tibet rather than full independence.

Various measures are already in force to attempt to marginalise the Dalai Lama inside Tibet. Images of him are banned and Tibetans have been jailed for calling for his long life or publicly praising him. Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities have increased their efforts in recent years to promote the Chinese Panchen Lama as an alternative Tibetan Buddhist leader who is loyal to the Chinese Communist Party.

Wu Yingjie's speech followed the Dalai Lama’s trip to Europe in September. During his visit, the Dalai Lama addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he expressed his wish to see Tibet’s future resolved. The Dalai Lama added that European Union should offer “constructive criticism” of China’s actions in Tibet.

His speech brought strong criticism from the Chinese government, with Chinese Foreign Minister Lu Kang condemning the “mistaken actions of the European Parliament” and accusing the European Union of “undermining China's core interests”. The Foreign Minister threatened countermeasures against the European Union.

A notable absence

Threats by the Chinese government against countries that meet the Dalai Lama have led to senior figures of several governments (including the UK, France, Germany and Norway) avoiding meetings with him, despite his widespread popularity among citizens of these countries. The South African government also denied him the necessary visa so that he could travel to the 80th birthday celebrations of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2012.

The “squeezing out” of the Dalai Lama was noted in an editorial by The Guardian this week, which noted the “extremely distasteful […] displays of realpolitik” underpinning China’s pressure on foreign governments.

The editorial also expressed concern that the he was not invited to the recent ‘Thirst for Peace’ interfaith meeting in Assisi, in which religious leaders of all faiths join together to pray for peace.  The Dalai Lama had been present at the first Assisi meeting back in 1986.

How you can take action

China may wish to undermine the Dalai Lama, but Tibetans continue to push back. Free Tibet’s ‘Beyond Belief’ campaign supports their struggle against China’s relentless interference in their religious affairs.

Read more about the campaign, and sign the petition which calls on political and religious leaders to tell China that they will never recognise any Dalai Lama it appoints.