BEIJING (Reuters) - Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday China was open to holding more talks with envoys for the Dalai Lama as long as the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader renounces what Beijing describes as separatism.
Wen said China's policies toward Tibet were correct and the region was peaceful and stable, even as security forces enforced a lockdown on ethnic Tibetan regions a year after protests and demonstrations across ethnic Tibetan areas.
Chinese officials and envoys from the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing brands a splittist, have held previous rounds of talks but little of substance has been achieved.
This kind of talks can continue. The key is that the Dalai Lama must demonstrate his sincerity so that the talks can achieve substantive results, Wen told a news conference at the end of the annual session of the Chinese parliament.
From Dharamsala, the North Indian hill station where the Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered, an aide said the Dalai Lama was always open to talks.
Regardless of what the Chinese prime minister said, we have made it very clear that our envoys are ready for any dialogue, Chhime Chhoekyapa told Reuters by telephone.
The Dalai Lama marked March 10, the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising and his exile, with a speech in India calling for meaningful autonomy for Tibet and slammed Beijing, lamenting how his homeland had become a hell on earth thanks to the Chinese.
The Nobel Prize-winning Buddhist monk denies China's charge that he is a separatist and seeks instead a middle way. China insists on only discussing his personal status.
This is something which we need to welcome and we are always ready to send his Holiness's envoys at any time, said Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister in exile.
We have already given our inspirations in writing in the last round of dialogue in November last year.
Wen appeared to create leeway for repairing relations with France by suggesting it was the prominence of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama last year, when Sarkozy held the rotating EU presidency, that riled China.
The problems that have arisen between China and France arose mainly because the French leader met the Dalai Lama in a prominent way, Wen said. China had previously objected to the fact that the two met.
This not only involved the core interests of China, it also seriously harmed the feelings of the Chinese people.
The Tibetan cause is popular in France and throughout Europe, and hundreds of Tibetan flags flew from town halls and ministry buildings on March 10. A Tibetan flag hung from the city hall in Paris was torn down by two Chinese nationals, Chinese media said.
Wen accused the West of exploiting the Dalai Lama, whom he described as a political exile rather than a religious figure.
The Dalai Lama runs around the world to various countries, and can intoxicate some in the political world. Some western countries exploit him, Wen said.
On March 14 last year, Lhasa erupted into riots after days of demonstrations by monks calling for more religious freedom. A Tibetan crowd burned shops belonging to Han Chinese and Hui Muslims, killing 19 people.
Groups abroad demanding Tibetan self-rule have said more than 200 Tibetans died across the region in the subsequent crackdown. Chinese officials have rejected these claims.
Wen described Tibet now as peaceful and stable.
The peacefulness of Tibet and its ongoing progress have proven that the policies we have adopted are correct, he said.
In Tibet proper and Tibetan regions in surrounding provinces, security forces have stationed themselves in towns and are manning roadblocks to avoid a repeat of last March, when protests and demonstrations rocked nearly every Tibetan community.
In some regions, the Internet and text messaging are blocked, while Tibetans are prevented from crossing other borders. Ethnically Tibetan areas, including Tibet proper, have been closed to foreigners.
China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since People's Liberation Army troops marched into the region in 1950.
(Additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi and Sunil Kataria in Dharamsala; Editing by Nick Macfie and Sanjeev Miglani)