China's newly appointed Communist Party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region said Friday that countering the Dalai Lama's influence in Tibet was Beijing's highest regional priority.
"First, we must deepen the struggle against the Dalai Lama clique, make it the highest priority in carrying out our ethnic affairs, and the long-term mission of strengthening ethnic unity," Wu Yingjie said, according to Reuters.
Beijing officials see ethnic affairs work, such as improving Mandarin proficiency among minorities and in grade schools, as key to ensuring national cohesion and creating economic opportunity, but many Tibetans view these as barely masked cultural assimilation measures.
The Reuters report also said the party official vowed to uproot what he called separatist and subversive activities of local monks.
In Dharamsala, India, officials representing the Tibetan government-in-exile said China is pursuing a domestic policy strategy that continues to fail.
"China can only control the physical bodies of Tibetans, but it can never control the minds of the Tibetans," Sonam Dhakpo, spokesperson of the exile government, told VOA's Tibetan service.
Wu, who was appointed party secretary in the Tibetan Autonomous Region in August, made news in 2013 by ordering Chinese troops to strike hard at massive protests in Dhathang Township, Driru County, where a government mandate requiring Tibetans to raise Chinese flags over their homes sparked several days of demonstrations.
Two days after his call for a violent crackdown, an estimated 60 protesters were injured when Chinese troops opened fire on a crowd, according to Tibetan ex-patriots who maintain close links to the region, where news reports are frequently blocked by government censors. It has never been determined whether troops fired rubber or conventional bullets.
The Dalai Lama (C) is pictured during a meeting with the International Group of Information about Tibet in the French Senate premises in Paris, Sept. 14. 2016.
Earlier this month, China's Foreign Ministry threatened countermeasures against Dalai Lama supporters after the Tibetan spiritual leader spoke at the European Parliament in France.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Tibetan service. Some information is from Reuters.