Sichuan party secretary Zhou Yongkang yesterday accused Tibetans in the province of wasting money by donating to Buddhist monasteries and thus becoming destitute. He also criticised teaching the Tibetan language in schools, saying it increased the Government's financial burden. Mr Zhou, who was made Sichuan's party boss two months ago, made the remarks at a special meeting with 13 grassroots representatives attending the NPC session. After hearing their complaints, Mr Zhou blamed the Tibetans for their own poverty. 'Although the Tibetan people live a harsh life, they donate 30 per cent and sometimes two thirds of their income to the monasteries. But what's the point of talking about the future when you ignore the present,' he said. 'The monasteries are wealthy but many government offices are in shabby buildings. It is hard to understand why the Tibetan people choose to live such a harsh life.' Mr Zhou said such blind faith had supported 'splittists' like the Dalai Lama. 'Of course people [like the Dalai Lama] are rich. People pass money to them,' he said. 'Promoting religious freedom has caused people so much hardship.' The party secretary also urged village leaders to promote atheism when they returned to their villages. Mr Zhou said the Tibetans should spend their money on their children's education. He was responding to a complaint by a representative who said only six children of the 44 families in her village could afford to go to school. Mr Zhou also pointed his finger at the promotion of minority languages in schools. 'It is such a heavy burden to promote minority education. You have to teach Han language and Tibetan language. There are also Yi minority people in the province, too,' he said. 'The whole world is learning English. Why bother so much.' One delegate said they were concerned Beijing's latest 'go west' programme - to plough money into China's western provinces - would be another excuse by local governments to impose new levies and fees. 'There is some unstable sentiment at the grassroots. Officials kept talking about development, but the more they talk, more families are becoming destitute,' he said.