A top Tibetan official said yesterday that the Dalai Lama's decision to give up his political power would have only limited effects on the region, adding that the Tibetan spiritual leader's continued negotiations with China would not be affected by his retirement from the government-in-exile.
In the Chinese government's first high-level comments since the Dalai Lama announced his retirement in March as head of the Dharamsala-based government, Tibetan chairman, or governor, Padma Choling said it would be good for Tibet if the Dalai Lama concentrated on religious affairs.
'I dare say that it will surely have some effect and cannot say it has no effect,' he said when asked what the Dalai Lama's political exit would mean for Tibet's social stability. But he said such effects were comparable to 'a wave in a swimming pool'.
'If the Dalai Lama really has retired as he says he has, if he stops his separatist activities, stops disrupting the stability of Tibet and really concentrates on Buddhism, then this will be good for Tibet,' he said.
'Whether he retires or not, the Dalai Lama is not allowed to sabotage the happy lives of the Tibetans,' Choling, Tibet's highest-ranking official, said on the eve of the 60th anniversary of communist rule over the Tibetan region, officially known as the 'peaceful liberation of Tibet'.
The Dalai Lama recently turned over his political authority to Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard academic elected in April.
Choling said the regional government and the Tibetans were confident and capable of maintaining social stability regardless of what the Dalai Lama said or did, as Tibetan people had benefited from China's phenomenal economic development. He cited data suggesting that the local economy had grown 111 times larger - adjusting for inflation - over the past six decades, jumping from 129 million yuan (HK$154 million) ) in local gross domestic product in 1951 to more than 50 billion yuan last year.
He said that recent census figures showed that Tibetans made up 90 per cent of the local populace, while Han Chinese accounted for just 8 per cent. And he dismissed widespread suspicion that Beijing was moving more Han Chinese into the region.
He also said Beijing still welcomed the Tibetan spiritual leader's return to Tibet as long as he ended his separatist activities.
'If he wants to come back, the door to China is always open,' Choling said. He added that what mattered was whether the Dalai Lama met Beijing's long-held preconditions for his return, including dropping his separatist activities and aspirations for an independent Tibet.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate says he seeks 'meaningful autonomy' for Tibet, not independence.
Choling said the Tibetan spiritual leader had done nothing good for Tibetans since he left his homeland. He ruled out any talks with the newly elected government-in-exile.