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18december20091In an interview with the Chinese Tibet Information Center on 17 December, Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), blamed both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his special envoy Lodyi Gyari as liars and separatists. This latest accusation is part of an ongoing dispute between the Communist official and the Tibetan spiritual leader over the need for genuine autonomy in both the Tibetan Autonomous Region and outlying Tibetan provinces.

The government-sponsored news agency began the interview by referring to an 8 December interview in which Mr. Zhu claimed he could not definitively state that, "the Dalai Lama has stopped separatist activities." In return, Mr. Gyari had published a statement on 10 December defending His Holiness, and the Information Center reporter asked Mr. Zhu for his response to Mr. Gyari's statement.

Mr. Zhu reacted by blaming the dispute on His Holiness, asserting that, "Evidently, Mr. Lodi Gyari "forgot" one thing-that the interview started from a speech of Dalai Lama delivered during his visit to Sydney on December 2, in which he declared, during the fifth-round of talks in 2006, ‘officials from the UFWD had told his representative, Lodi Gyari, that they knew the Dalai Lama hadn't sought an independent Tibet.'"

"So, the discussion of Dalai Lama's lie was provoked by Dalai Lama himself," the vice minister reasoned.

Without providing any conclusive evidence of His Holiness's supposed lie, Mr. Zhu went on to blame the "Middle Way" approach to Tibetan autonomy, claiming that it violates the Chinese constitution in several major ways. He made no comment on the memorandum the Tibetan exile government produced earlier this year, which the Chinese have also rejected.

"The Chinese government's policy on the Dalai Lama is clear and consistent...If Mr. Gyari still wants to deceive the central government by those ideas such as ‘half-independence' or ‘covert independence', the result will be no different," concluded Mr. Zhu.

However, Chinese government policy toward His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people has changed drastically since the March 2008 protests, and it is quite possible that Chinese officials back in 2006 were willing to listen to the Tibetan leader's request for autonomy without labeling him a "separatist."

It should also be noted that in nearly every public speech His Holiness makes, he emphasizes that his mission is a spiritual and non-political one, and that he is asking for genuine autonomy in Tibet-basics such as freedom of religion and expression, and the protection of human rights-rather than independence from China.

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