China on Monday described as “groundless” claims made by the Dalai Lama on an assassination plot being hatched by Chinese agents.

The Foreign Ministry said the Dalai Lama was “spreading rumours to draw public attention”, when asked about comments made by the Tibetan religious leader stating that he had been made aware of unconfirmed reports of a plot to poison him.

“His sensational allegations are not worth refuting,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a briefing. “In a religious cloak, the Dalai Lama has been engaged in anti-China separatist activities internationally. He is spreading rumours to draw public attention.”

Mr. Hong said the Dalai Lama had made “groundless remarks”. The Dalai Lama told the British newspaper The Telegraph last week that he had “received some sort of information from Tibet” about a plot, though his aides said there had been no confirmed reports.

“Some Chinese agents training some Tibetans, especially women, you see, using poison — the hair poisoned, and the scarf poisoned — they were supposed to seek blessing from me, and my hand touch,” said the Dalai Lama.

The Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper hit out at the Dalai Lama for deciding “to openly speak of this unconfirmed information”.

“He spread the information of this kind at his pleasure, even more enthusiastically than the other ordinary Tibetan monks in exile,” it said in an editorial. “In fact, some of the rumours related to Tibet originated from the Dalai Lama. Let's put it simply: If the central government wanted to “eliminate” the Dalai Lama, why has it waited for such a long time? Isn't it foolish to take action against Dalai at such an old age?”

His claims were not credible, it said, “because there is no benefit for Chinese agents to poison him, but also because of the fact that since the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the country has never assassinated its political opponents in exile.”

“Let the Dalai live his life,” said the editorial. “His existence is not a crisis for China. He is a problem, but one that China can well afford to ignore.”

Xiong Kunxin, a professor of Minzu University, a government-run institution that specialises on studies related to China's ethnic minorities, told the newspaper that the Dalai Lama “may try to create chaos before the 18th National Congress” of the Communist Party, which will see a once-in-decade leadership transition later this year, by “[plotting] more separatist acts, such as instigating self-immolation and provoking violence.”

Chinese officials have accused the Dalai Lama and exiled monks in India of plotting the more than 30 self-immolation protests seen in Tibetan areas in China over the past year. While the Dalai Lama has expressed sympathy with the monks involved in the immolations, he has blamed restrictive religious policies for triggering the incidents and has said he did not encourage the acts. The Dalai Lama has stressed he is only seeking genuine autonomy for Tibetans in China, and not independence.

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