BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese official has denounced the Dalai Lama for calling for dialogue with Islamic State militants, saying that it exposed the Tibetan spiritual leader’s “sympathy” for the group, state media said on Wednesday.
The Italian newspaper La Stampa quoted the Dalai Lama on Monday as saying that dialogue with Islamic State, which has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, was vital to ensuring peace.
“By saying, ‘listen, understand and respect’ them, it exposes, in his very bones, his sympathy or endorsement for IS,” China’s state-run Global Times newspaper quoted Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to China’s parliament, as saying.
Zhu said the fundamental reason for the Dalai Lama’s sympathy was due to the fact that “he has never given up violence in his political way of life”. The Dalai Lama was not immediately available for comment. His secretary, Tenzin Taklha, did not answer a call to his mobile phone.
Beijing denounces the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, as a dangerous “splittist”, or separatist, a charge he denies.
China is home to a large Muslim population of about 20 million people, including Uighurs in the far western region of Xinjiang, where the government says it is facing its own problem with radicalized Islamists.
China has stepped up its rhetoric against the Dalai Lama in recent weeks. State media said on Tuesday that China’s Communist Party boss in Tibet has urged the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, to reject the Dalai Lama.
An official was quoted as saying that the Panchen Lama has won broad praise since taking up the position two decades ago in what was a great victory against separatists.
Controversy surrounds the position of the Panchen Lama since the boy the Dalai Lama named as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama disappeared when he was six.
China’s Communist Party has long maintained the Dalai Lama’s choice, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, now 26, is not the real Panchen Lama, and in 1995, the government selected Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama. He is spurned by many Tibetans as a fake.
Over the past 20 years, with the “kindness” of the party, China’s Panchen Lama had strictly followed Buddhism’s precepts, studied hard, “got the people to like him and become more firmly politically mature”, Sithar, a deputy minister of the United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting minorities and religious groups, was cited by the official Tibet Daily as saying.
Many Tibetans fear Beijing will use the issue of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama’s eventual death and succession to split Tibetan Buddhism, with one new Dalai Lama named by exiles and one by the government.
Beijing insists it must approve the next Dalai Lama, though the title’s current holder has said it could end when he dies.
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie