BEIJING – China accused the Dalai Lama on Monday of allying with Japanese right-wingers in an island dispute as a way of attacking China and blamed him for glorifying a wave of self-immolations among Tibetans. The comments came as another Tibetan set himself on fire to protest Chinese rule, Tibetan exiles and a rights group said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Dalai Lama's comments in Japan on the island dispute showed his "reactionary nature" and determination to split China apart under the guise of religion.
"To achieve his separatist goal, he associated with the Japanese right-wing forces. Chinese people despise him for what he did. We are firmly opposed to any country's providing a stage for him," Hong said.
Chinese media have said the Dalai Lama called the islands by their Japanese name during a news conference in Yokohama last Monday but an Associated Press review of a tape of the event showed he referred to them only as "the islands."
On Monday in Okinawa, the Dalai Lama criticized Chinese media for making up a claim that he sided with the Japanese.
Tensions have run high over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, since the Japanese government nationalized some of them in September in a bid to prevent Tokyo's right-wing governor from buying them. Violent anti-Japanese protests broke out in a number of Chinese cities, and Beijing has sent ships to conduct near-constant patrols near the uninhabited rocks.
Hong also attacked the Dalai Lama for reportedly accusing the Chinese government of failing to investigate the root cause of despair and hopelessness among Tibetans that many say have prompted people to take their lives as a form of protest. China has long accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of inspiring such acts, despite his condemnation of all forms of violence.
"Not only did the Dalai not condemn them, but he actually glorified these acts, which are against the national law and religious principles," Hong said.
The remarks came as a 24-year-old Tibetan man set himself on fire at a prayer ceremony in Tongren county in western China's Qinghai province, becoming the seventh person in six days to self-immolate in the region, the rights group Free Tibet said.
Nyingkar Tashi is reported to have died in the protest in which he called out for freedom in Tibet and for the longevity of the Dalai Lama, the group said. A statement from the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, provided similar details.
A Tongren government official who picked up the phone said he could not comment, while Ma Chunyin, head of the Tongren Communist Party Propaganda Department, said he did not know about the reported self-immolation.
Tibet support groups overseas have said the increase in protests in recent days is meant to highlight Tibetan unhappiness with Chinese rule as the country's leaders hand over power to younger successors at a party congress in Beijing.
"Throughout the 18th Party Congress the new unelected leaders have been reminded on an almost daily basis of Tibetans' rejection of Chinese rule, and of the terrible failure of policies to cement the occupation," Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said.
The Dalai Lama fled to India following an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule over Tibet. He denies seeking the region's independence, saying that he wishes Tibetans to enjoy real autonomy and protection of their traditional Buddhist culture.
Associated Press writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.