Authorities blame Dalai Lama for Tibetan clashes

China vowed yesterday to crack down on unrest in Tibetan areas and accused overseas activist groups and the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the recent violence.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said clashes between Tibetans and security forces in Sichuan province last month were the work of criminals and were instigated by overseas groups campaigning for Tibetan independence.

"We believe that this is a case of a handful of criminals illegally gathering and smashing and looting," Mr Liu said during a briefing.

He added that the "surprising" promptness with which overseas Tibetan activist groups reported the unrest "showed that they have colluded and premeditated the incidents". Mr Liu also accused the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' spiritual leader, of preaching that actions were more powerful than prayer.

"The Chinese government will resolutely crack down on any attempt to incite violence or to disrupt national unity and integrity," Mr Liu said.

His remarks came as the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, called for vigils, which are due to be held today.

More than a dozen monks and nuns have set themselves on fire in ethnic Tibetan areas of Sichuan over the past year. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959.