China dismissed the election of a new political leader by Tibetan exiles, suggesting it had no intention of dealing with a group which it called illegal and unrecognised.
The new prime minister, the 42-year old Lobsang Sangay and who was elected this week, has hinted in the past he could move beyond the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” policy of negotiating for autonomy for Tibet from China. He used to be a leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which demands complete independence.
“The so-called Tibet government-in-exile is an illegal political organisation set up overseas by the Dalai Lama to engage in Tibet independence activities,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing’s first official reaction to the election, Reuters reports.
“No country in the world recognises this organisation,” he added, without elaborating.
The Dalai Lama in March said he would relinquish the four-century old tradition of power in favour of a leader popularly elected by the Tibetan diaspora. He will continue as a spiritual leader to his people who revere him as an incarnation of the Buddhist deity of compassion.
By giving up his political powers, the 75-year old Dalai Lama has made it more difficult for China to influence the course of the independence movement after his death, analysts say.
The Chinese government says it has to approve all reincarnations of living Buddhas, or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. It also says China has to sign off on the choosing of the next Dalai Lama.
China regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist responsible for stirring unrest in Tibet. He denies supporting violence or wanting independence, saying he only seeks true autonomy for his homeland.