China's foreign ministry denounced the prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile on Friday as a separatist who had never done a good thing in his life, in a sign that Beijing is unlikely to resume talks anytime soon.
Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay told Reuters a day earlier that he was hopeful Chinese President Xi Jinping would resume formal talks and soften China's handling of Tibet.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei's harsh comments suggest little chance of that happening.
"The relevant person is 100 percent a splittist. He is the ringleader of the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile. He has never done anything good on the Tibet issue," Hong said at a daily news briefing.
The body Songay leads is illegal under Chinese law because it seeks Tibet’s independence from China, Hong said, adding it is not recognized by any country. “People can only laugh at the slander he makes about Tibet's situation.”
Campaign pressures China
Sangay made his comments before the launch of a global publicity campaign to persuade world governments to pressure China to restart the dialogue and change its policy on Tibet.
China has ruled Tibet since 1950, when Communist troops marched in and announced its “peaceful liberation.” Thousands of its people, including spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule a few years later.
The Tibetans say they aren't seeking independence, but greater autonomy under the Chinese constitution. China says it does not believe them.
“Tibet's independence is not acceptable, nor is half-independence, nor covert independence,” Hong said.
The door to talks is always open, but China will only talk to the Dalai Lama's personal representatives and only about his personal future, not anything to do with Tibet, Hong added, repeating Beijing's standard line.
Tibetans fear for culture
Many Tibetans think their intensely Buddhist culture is at risk of annihilation by Beijing's political and economic domination and the influx of majority Han Chinese into the Himalayan region. China denies these charges.
At least 131 Tibetans have died since 2009 by setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.
Representatives of the Dalai Lama held rounds of talks with China until 2010, but formal dialogue has stalled amid leadership changes in Beijing and a crackdown in Tibet.