The new Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet said today that only socialism can "save" the remote region and guarantee its development, and lampooned the Dalai Lama's indecision on his succession.
China has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying not only did it free a million Tibetan serfs but it also poured billions of dollars into the Himalayan region for development.
Padma Choling, an ethnic Tibetan appointed governor in January, blamed Tibet's problems on exiled spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner the Dalai Lama, a man reviled by Beijing as a "separatist" and instigator of anti-Chinese violence.
"The main source of instability in Tibet is the Dalai Lama, and it is also he who causes trouble for Tibet's economic development and socio-economic progress," Padma Choling told reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament.
"But I have to say, we are not the least bit scared ... as all the peoples of Tibet have already clearly realised that only the Chinese Communist Party and socialism can save Tibet, and only then can Tibet develop," he said in impeccable Chinese.
Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March 2008 gave way to torrid violence, with rioters torching shops and turning on residents, especially Han Chinese, who many Tibetans see as intruders threatening their culture.
At least 19 people died in the 2008 unrest, which sparked waves of protests across Tibetan areas. Pro-Tibet groups overseas say more than 200 people were killed in a subsequent crackdown.
The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising, denies China's charges against him, and says he only seeks more meaningful autonomy for Tibet.
Several rounds of talks in recent years between the Chinese Communist Party and the Dalai Lama's envoys have yielded little.
Uncertainty also surrounds what will happen once the ageing Dalai Lama passes away.
The Dalai Lama has floated several scenarios, including that his successor and reincarnation may not be found in Chinese-controlled territory.
Many Tibetans and pro-Tibet groups fear Beijing will simply announce its own Dalai Lama, as it did with the Panchen Lama, Tibetan's Buddhism's second-highest figure, in 1995. The Dalai Lama's choice for Panchen Lama, a six-year-old boy, was swiftly picked up and taken away by the Chinese authorities.
Human rights groups dubbed the child then "the world's youngest political prisoner".
Padma Choling said that boy was a "victim" of the Dalai Lama's unilateral decision in 1995 to recognise him as the 11th Panchen Lama, and that he was now living a quiet life in Tibet, out of the public gaze.
The governor also poked fun at what he said was the Dalai Lama's indecision on his succession.
"One minute he says he will be reincarnated, the next he won't ... One minute he says it can happen within China, the next it will happen overseas," he said. "I don't know which one is accurate.
"The Dalai Lama is still alive, let's talk about it (his reincarnation) again when he dies," the governor added.