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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 16:50 GMT
'Make Dalai Lama Tibet governor'
Dalai Lama
China has refused to hold talks with the Dalai Lama
The head of a European Union delegation to China has urged the Chinese leadership to appoint the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as governor of Tibet.

Such remarks are groundless and worthwhile of no comment

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman
The proposal was reportedly made last weekend to China's former premier, Li Peng, by Per Gahrton, a Swedish member of the European Parliament.

Mr Li, who now chairs China's National People's Congress (NPC), responded that the Dalai Lama would have to meet a number of conditions before such a move would be considered.

However, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry angrily dismissed the suggestion, saying the Tibetan spiritual leader was "a person long engaged in 'splittist' activities with the cloak of religion".

Li Peng
NPC chairman Li Peng says the outside world has a distorted view of Tibet
"Such remarks are groundless and worthwhile of no comment," he said. "It is ridiculous."

Mr Gahrton said that, during what he called an "open and frank discussion" with Mr Li on human rights issues, he asked the NPC chairman: "Why not propose to him to be governor of Tibet?"

Mr Li reportedly told his European guest that the Dalai Lama would have to take Chinese nationality and reject Tibetan independence.

He said he would also have to recognise the borders of China, which include the island of Taiwan, and respect the constitution of the People's Republic of China.

Call for talks

Speaking at the end of a week-long visit to China Mr Gahrton, who heads the European Parliament's committee on relations with Beijing, said he had urged the Chinese Government to begin talks with the Dalai Lama.

He said an agreement with Tibet's spiritual leader would prevent the issue of Tibet continuing to tarnish China's image around the world.

China invaded and annexed Tibet in the 1950s
The official Xinhua news agency did not report the European delegation's proposal but said that Mr Li had told him China would welcome further visits to Tibet by European officials.

"Some European and American people who know little of Tibet's history and the reality of the situation still proceed to draw conclusions from one-sided and distorted news reports," Mr Li is quoted as saying.

China annexed Tibet in 1950, forcing the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers to flee into India in 1959.

Since then the Tibetan Government-in-exile has estimated that 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of the Chinese occupation.

Beijing itself routinely denies human rights abuses in Tibet and points to the construction of roads, factories and hospitals as evidence of its "benevolent" rule.

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See also:

07 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
World Bank rejects Tibet land plan
06 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tibetan nuns 'died after torture'
28 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China intensifies anti-Dalai Lama campaign
23 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China 'beating' Tibet separatism
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China accused of ruining Tibet
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