By SCOTT McDONALD, Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) - A state-run Chinese website has launched a bitter attack on the Dalai Lama, accusing the exiled Buddhist leader of "Nazi" racial policies and of inciting Tibetans to set themselves on fire.
The commentary on China Tibet Online, also carried Saturday by the official Xinhua News Agency, is one of the strongest reactions from Beijing to a string of protests in ethnic Tibetan areas of China.
About 30 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have set themselves on fire in the past year to protest what they say are repressive government policies toward their religion and culture. Many seek the return of the Dalai Lama.
The commentary follows other attacks by government officials on the Dalai Lama, who has praised the courage of those who engage in self-immolation and has attributed the protests to what he calls China's "cultural genocide" in Tibet. But he also says he does not encourage the protests, noting they could invite an even harsher crackdown.
The website, set up in 2000 to present the government's perspective on Tibet, accused the Dalai Lama of instigating the self-immolations and advocating Nazi racial segregation ideas.
It said the Dalai Lama had encouraged people to self-immolate because he called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in February to remember those who have set themselves on fire.
An official of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India, said the Dalai Lama has stated that he does not support self-immolation.
"We are concerned about China shifting the blame on the Dalai Lama, making him the scapegoat rather than correcting their own repressive policies," said Dicki Choyang, minister of the exile government's Department of Information and International Affairs.
One activist group, London-based Free Tibet, released a video on Friday of one of the most recent self-immolations, showing the death earlier this month of Sonam Thargyal, a 44-year-old farmer who doused himself with kerosene before setting himself on fire.
The Chinese website was critical of the Dalai Lama's comments that government policies, including the increased use of the Chinese language in Tibetan schools and the migration of ethnic Han Chinese into Tibetan areas, were eroding Tibetan culture.
"The Dalai Lama still treats himself as the serf owner, Tibet as his property and Tibetan people as his slaves," it said.
The government says it has substantially improved living conditions in minority areas through massive spending programs, and that most Tibetans lived in feudal-like conditions before the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India in 1959 during a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
It said the Dalai Lama's goal was to restore Tibetan serfdom and divide China. The Dalai Lama has said his aim is increased autonomy within China.
The commentary said the Dalai Lama's remark that a future autonomous Tibetan region should be allowed to regulate who lives in the region was "a public declaration to expel non-Tibetan residents out of Tibet."
Choyang of the exile government called China's description of the population proposal "totally misleading."
The proposal "never suggested removing established communities but advised preventing a massive transfer in the future," she said.
The Chinese commentary called the Dalai Lama a "tricky liar skilled in double-dealing" who wants to build a "Berlin Wall" of ethnic segregation and confrontation.
"The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the uncontrolled and cruel Nazi during the Second World War. ... How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jewish!" the commentary said in criticizing the Dalai Lama's call for high levels of autonomy for Tibetan areas.
It also said the Dalai Lama was controlled by the United States and that his relatives work for the Central Intelligence Agency.
It said the Dalai Lama, by praising the courage of those who died from self-immolations, left no doubt among his followers that one way for them to earn his prayers was for them to set themselves on fire.
Associated Press writer Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala, India, contributed to this report.