World | Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:30pm IST

China says it defends Tibetan culture

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, not the Dalai Lama, is the real guardian of Tibet's culture, the government said on Thursday, rejecting criticism that its rule in the restive mountain region amounts to cultural annihilation.

Beijing laid out its case in a "white paper" issued on Thursday, amassing statistics about literacy, education and religion to argue that Tibet has enjoyed a cultural revival since the Chinese Communist Party took control from 1950.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who has said China may be perpetrating "cultural genocide" in his homeland, is the real source of cultural destruction, the paper says.

"Facts prove that the 14th Dalai Lama and his clique are the representatives and guardian of the backward culture of old Tibet," states the white paper, which was issued to reporters.

China's central government and administration in Tibet "are the ones that truly protect and develop Tibetan culture".

Beijing releases such papers to clarify its policies on contentious issues. Its latest salvo in its verbal battle with the Dalai Lama is sure to draw sharp rejection from critics.

They point to the destruction of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in past decades, current policies seeking to control monks and nuns, and the growing presence of Han Chinese and their influence in Tibet's capital Lhasa and other parts of the region.

During the riots and protests that erupted across Tibetan regions in March, the Dalai Lama said Beijing may be perpetrating deliberate "cultural genocide" in the region.

"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, somewhere cultural genocide is taking place", he said.

But China blames the Dalai Lama's "clique" for the unrest and anti-China protests which dogged the international torch relay for the Beijing Olympics. And in its white paper, the government makes the case that its support has been a boon for traditional Tibetan culture.

Literacy in both Tibetan and Chinese has grown dramatically; Tibetans can enjoy television, radio, books and magazines in their own language; and religious freedom is respected, says the paper.

The Dalai Lama's supporters "conspire to force the Tibetan ethnic group and its culture to stagnate and remain in a state similar to the Middle Ages, in effect to become living fossils," it says.

The 73-year-old Dalai has been recovering after abdominal pains that sent him to hospital last month and is cutting down on travel, an aide said on Wednesday.

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