Unrest comes as top Communist Party official calls for ‘absolute fight against Dalai clique’

Several Tibetan monks were reported to have been injured in firing by Chinese paramilitary forces in the western Sichuan region as they gathered to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday on Saturday, according to reports from several overseas Tibetan groups.

Reports of the unrest came as the Communist Party of China (CPC) official in charge of ethnic and religious affairs, Yu Zhengsheng, called for “an absolute fight against the Dalai clique” as he toured Tibetan areas of western Gansu province.

Mr. Yu, who is the fourth-ranked leader on the elite seven-member CPC Politburo Standing Committee, also appeared to rule out the likelihood of any significant progress in the stalled talks between the Party and the Dalai Lama’s representatives, in a suggestion that the new leadership was unlikely to adopt any marked change in its Tibet policy.

“Only when the Dalai Lama publicly announces that Tibet is an inalienable part of China since ancient time, gives up the stance of ‘Tibet independence’ and stops his secessionist activities, can his relations with the CPC Central Committee possibly be improved,” Mr. Yu was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency during a visit to the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu.

His comments came amid reports that at least two people, Tashi Sonam of the Nyitso monastery and Tashi Gyaltsen, were “shot in the head” and many others injured by police firing, which took place as hundreds of monks and ordinary Tibetans gathered to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday in a town in Sichuan, which neighbours in Gansu, on July 6, according to images received by the International Campaign for Tibet.

Both receiving treatment, according to overseas groups. At least half a dozen others who were injured in the reported firing had also been identified. They included Tsering Dhondup, another monk from Nyitso, and Jangchub Dorjee, a monk who is the younger brother of Palden Choetso, a nun from the Sichuan town of Dawu who had set herself on fire in a self-immolation protest in November 2011.

Exiled groups and monks in Dharamsala, citing contacts in the region, said monks had gathered near Nyitso monastery in the town of Dawu on July 6 to mark the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday amid heavy police presence.

The circumstances that led to the injuries remain unclear. Provincial authorities in Sichuan could not be reached to confirm the details. Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing, said she was “not aware” of the incident, but accused “the Dalai Lama clique” of “using his birthday to promote their separatist agenda”.

“I think everyone is clear what kind of figure the Dalai Lama is,” she said. “He is by no means a religious figure. He is a political exile engaged in separating his country and undermining social stability of the country.”

The Dalai Lama is widely revered as a religious figure among many Tibetans in China, with restrictions on worshipping the spiritual leader emerging as a source of discord in many monasteries. While some Chinese scholars have recently called on the CPC to consider allowing religious activities in monasteries even while it maintains control over any political activities to address those concerns, Ms. Hua indicated that the government would not consider doing so as it did not see the Dalai Lama as a religious leader.

“China’s position on the issue of the Dalai Lama is quite clear,” she said. “He is a political exile engaged in separatist activities and undermining social stability and unity in the name of religion, and our problem with the Dalai Lama is by no means a religious or ethnic issue. It is a major principled issue concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Mr. Yu, the Politburo member, on Tuesday suggested any progress in the stalled negotiations would remain unlikely in the near future as he reiterated China's demands on two issues that have emerged as sticking points in the talks. He called on the Dalai Lama to publicly announce that Tibet was always an inalienable part of China, while he attacked the "Middle Way" approach, seeking genuine autonomy for Tibetans, as being “completely opposite to China’s Constitution and the country’s system of regional ethnic autonomy”.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, however, has stressed that he was not seeking independence and only calling for China to ensure genuine autonomy for Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. While the Dalai Lama has said he was seeking a solution to the Tibetan issue within the framework of the Chinese Constitution, China has termed his calls to ensure rights for Tibetans in all the four regions as “disguised independence” that seeks to supersede the authority of provincial governments and the Constitution.

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