A senior Communist Party official vowed Beijing would continue its 'vigorous struggle' against the Dalai Lama, state media said yesterday. It is the first time a senior official in charge of Tibetan affairs issued such a strongly-worded statement after a spate of self-immolations by Tibetans in protest against Chinese rule. Zhu Weiqun, a vice-minister of the party's United Front Work Department responsible for managing relations with Tibetans and other minorities, issued the warning in Lhasa at a recent meeting with Tibet Autonomous Region government officials, the Tibet Daily reported yesterday, without giving a date. The United Front Work Department reports directly to the Central Committee, the highest authority in the Communist Party. Zhu's comments are significant as they are a clear message from the leadership that dissent will not be tolerated. 'The central government's stance towards the Dalai clique remains unchanged; its struggle against that clique remains unchanged,' Zhu was quoted as saying. 'Our struggle is long-term, vigorous, complex and even intense.' The 'Dalai clique' is a term often used by government officials to refer to the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate and his followers. Zhu warned against complacency, saying local officials in Tibet must maintain 'a clear head' and be mindful of national security, the crisis they face and their responsibilities, as well as being constantly vigilant about social stability. '[We] must firmly, efficiently, decisively and completely crush any plan that would jeopardise the stability of Tibet and endanger national unity,' Zhu was quoted as saying. Zhu's comments echoed those of Tibet's top Communist Party official, Chen Quanguo, last month. Chen said the Dalai Lama's 'stubborn, separatist Tibet independence stance' has remained unchanged, and he urged party cadres to 'stand firm' in their fight against the Dalai Lama's 'separatist' activities. The Dalai Lama and senior exiled Tibetan monks blamed the self-immolations on what they say are Beijing's hardline policies in predominantly ethnic Tibetan areas. At least 11 self-immolations have taken place in Tibetan areas of Sichuan this year, and a US-based rights group reported the first such protest by a former monk in the Tibet Autonomous Region a week ago. The latest reported self-immolation came shortly after Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu visited Aba prefecture in northern Sichuan - where most of the self-immolations have taken place. The move was seen by observers as a sign of the central government's anxiety over anti-Chinese sentiment. Tsering Woeser, a Beijing-based Tibetan writer, said Zhu's rhetoric showed the central government had not altered its hardline stance towards Tibetans after the spate of drastic demonstrations.