Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

West 'uses Tibet to attack China'

File image of the new railway station that connects Lhasa with Beijing
China says it has poured money into Tibet and improved residents' lives

China has published a paper praising its rule in Tibet and accusing the West of trying to inflame tensions there.

China had developed Tibet's economy and improved both the human rights and living conditions of its residents, the white paper said.

Reports of a "Tibet issue" were an attempt by "western anti-China forces" to demonise China, it said.

The paper comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile and amid reports of regional unrest.

Tibet itself appears to be closed to foreigners ahead of the anniversary and access to surrounding areas is restricted, making independent confirmation of accounts of fresh monk-led disturbances and protests very difficult.

'Split and demonise'

The white paper was released by the State Council Information Office, China's official news agency Xinhua said.

Chinese rule in Tibet had overthrown "the feudal serfdom system" and liberated about one million serfs and slaves, the paper said, likening the move to America's abolition of slavery.

China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before the 20th Century
1950: China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India

The government had invested heavily in Tibet and worked to protect Tibetans' culture and heritage, it said.

Westerners were ignoring historical facts and had "confused right and wrong", it added.

"In fact, the so-called 'Tibet issue' is by no means an ethnic, religious and human rights issue, but rather the western anti-China forces' attempt to restrain, split and demonise China," Xinhua quoted the paper as saying.

A separate commentary in the People's Daily newspaper said that the West was attacking China over Tibet because it feared China's growing strength.

Reports from Tibetan areas suggest that security is tight ahead of the upcoming 10 March anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising 50 years ago.

Last year, a protest by monks on that date led to deadly anti-China riots in Lhasa a few days later, and several weeks of unrest in surrounding regions.

It was the biggest challenge to Chinese rule in Tibet for two decades.

Despite repeated media campaigns, the Chinese government is painfully aware the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Tibetans is far from over, says the BBC's China editor, Shirong Chen.

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