BEIJING – China appeared to rule out talks with the new head of Tibet's government-in-exile on Friday, quashing any hope of improved relations between Beijing and the new leadership.
Beijing does not recognize the government, based in India, that until recently was headed by the Dalai Lama. It has held talks with the Tibetan Buddhist leader and his representatives in the past, but nine rounds have made no headway.
Recently, though, the Dalai Lama turned over political power to an elected head of the government, Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard legal scholar who won April elections.
Lobsang Sangay said this week he was ready to negotiate with China "anytime, anywhere."
However, in an interview with the official "Chinese Tibet" magazine, a top official for Tibetan contacts said Beijing would only meet with personal representatives of the Dalai Lama.
"That government-in-exile of his, no matter who leads (it), it's all just a separatist political clique that betrays the motherland with no legitimacy at all and absolutely no status to engage in dialogue with the representatives of the central government," said Zhu Weiqun.
China accused the Dalai Lama — and other exiled Tibetans — of seeking independence, though the spiritual leader insists he only wants greater autonomy for the region.
Zhu did not say if China would meet with Lobsang Sangay if he were to adopt another title. Previously, China has met with officials of the exile government in their capacity as the Dalai Lama's special representatives.
Lobsang Sangay was elected last month by tens of thousands of Tibetans around the world after the 75-year-old Dalai Lama said he wanted to shift his political authority to an elected leader.
Lobsang Sangay said his government would seek genuine autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule by following the "middle path," the Dalai Lama's policy of measured compromise.
China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time. The Dalai Lama fled into exile in amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, nine years after communist forces entered the Himalayan region.