08/16/2004, 00.00
china - tibet
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Lhasa officials harden line against Dalai Lama

Photos of the religious leader are forbidden; religious life is under control

Lhasa (AsiaNews/Reuters) - The Dalai Lama may only return to his homeland if he renounces aspirations for Tibetan independence, and any talks can be held only with his personal representative, a deputy mayor of Lhasa says.

Xiao Bai's tough words signal that recent tentative behind-the-scenes contacts between envoys of the exiled Tibetan leader and Beijing may have broken down.

Beijing established direct contact with the Dalai Lama in 1979. The dialogue was suspended in 1993 but had been quietly revived in the past 18 months amid signs that Beijing might have decided to allow a subtle, if significant, shift in policy towards the Dalai Lama, whose brother is believed to have visited Beijing.

"We can talk to the Dalai Lama as long as he truly gives up the principle of Tibetan independence and gives up his splittist activities and openly announces that Tibet is an integral part of China and that Taiwan is a province of China," Mr Xiao said on Saturday.

"We only have communication with the personal representatives of the Dalai Lama," Mr Xiao said, attacking the government-in-exile that the 69-year-old Dalai Lama heads from Dharamsala in India.

Beijing fears the Dalai Lama's return could trigger a renewal of the violent anti-Chinese riots that rocked the region in the late 1980s and prompted the central government to impose martial law in 1989.

So nervous are authorities in the deeply Buddhist region that the Dalai Lama's photograph is banned.

Mr Xiao saw little chance that pictures of the Dalai Lama would be permitted any time soon, even though many ordinary Tibetans plead with foreign visitors for a copy and venerate tiny photographs placed on the corners of temple altars in more remote regions.

"As to whether his picture is allowed to be shown, if he does not give up his splittist activities ... his picture will not be allowed in public," Mr Xiao said.

Officials acknowledged the Dalai Lama continued to exert a powerful influence over "the roof of the world" from exile. They cited this as a reason to limit the number of monks allowed to live in the main monasteries around Lhasa.

"The Dalai Lama has a certain amount of influence in Tibet, especially in the three monasteries," said Zhao Baoyun, deputy director of the Lhasa Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, referring to Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries.

In Ganden, 500 monks were allowed, in Sera the limit was 600 and in sprawling Drepung, which at its height was home to as many as 10,000 monks, no more than 700 monks were permitted, he said.

Monks had to undergo patriotic education to counter the Dalai Lama's influence, he said.

"We think the monks and nuns have realised that in Tibet they can enjoy full freedom of religion and we have been able to maintain security," he said.

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No Dalai Lama at the Second World Buddhist Forum
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If there really is peace in Tibet, Beijing should free the true Panchen Lama


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