China leaders ‘don’t understand variety of cultures’: Dalai Lama

The Tibetan spiritual leader criticised Chinese leaders for not appreciating unique cultures in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Tibet's spiritual leader has worked for decades to promote linguistic and cultural autonomy in his homeland. [File: Johan Nilsson /TT News Agency via Reuters]

Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has criticised the leaders of China saying they “don’t understand the variety of different cultures”, while at the same time reaffirming his support for their Communist and Marxist ideals.

Taking part in an online news conference anchored in Tokyo on Wednesday, the 86-year-old Dalai Lama said the more narrow-minded Chinese Communist leaders did not appreciate the unique culture in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The problem stemmed from “too much control by Han people,” the largest ethnic group in China. “I know Communist Party leaders since Mao Zedong. Their ideas (are) good. But sometimes they do much extreme, tight control,” he said.

Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang region have faced increasing government repression, with the United States’s Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday expressing “the Museum’s grave concern that the Chinese government may be committing genocide” against the Uighurs.

Despite the criticism, Tibet’s 14th Dalai Lama said he had nothing against “Chinese brothers and sisters” as fellow humans and he broadly supported the ideas behind Communism and Marxism.

Beijing has ruled the remote western region since 1951 after its People’s Liberation Army marched in and took control in what it called a “peaceful liberation”. Tibet has since become one of the most restricted and sensitive areas in the country.

The Dalai Lama also praised Taiwan, which the Chinese government sees as a breakaway province that will eventually be part of the country again, saying the island was the true repository of China’s ancient culture and traditions since on the mainland it was now “too politicised”.

Beijing regards the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, as a dangerous separatist. He has worked for decades to draw global support for linguistic and cultural autonomy in his remote, mountainous homeland.

The Dalai Lama said he had no plan to meet China’s leader, Xi Jinping, but would like to visit again to see old friends.

“I prefer to remain here in India, peacefully,” he said, praising it as a centre of religious harmony despite rising attacks against Muslims in recent years by Hindu far-right groups.

China’s President Xi Jinping made his first visit to the autonomous region as the national leader in July and urged people there to “follow the party.” The visit was also the first to be conducted by a Chinese leader in 30 years.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies