There is no widespread support for the Dalai Lama in Tibet and ordinary people are grateful to the Communist Party for "bringing them a happy life", Chinese officials insisted yesterday.
This week marks the 60th anniversary of a failed uprising which led to Tibet's Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fleeing into exile in India.
Beijing -- which claims it "peacefully liberated" the Himalayan area -- stands accused of political and religious repression in the region.
But China insists that Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms and argues it has brought economic growth.
"Since defecting, the Dalai Lama has not done a single good thing for the Tibetan people," Tibet party boss Wu Yingjie said during a meeting at the sidelines of China's annual parliamentary meeting.
"Tibetan people have gratitude in their hearts. They are grateful to the Communist Party for bringing them a happy life."
At least 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing's presence in Tibet, most of whom have died from their injuries.
China had reached out to the Dalai Lama in 2002 to negotiate but after nine rounds of dialogue that lasted through till 2010, many believed that Beijing was intentionally dragging on pointless talks, hoping international pressure over Tibet would end with the passing of the Dalai Lama.
At 83, the Nobel Peace Prize winner enjoys rapturous crowds around the world.
Many Tibetan Buddhists fear Beijing may seek to impose their choice of spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama's death.
It is unclear how, or even whether, his successor will be named -- the centuries-old practice requires senior monks to interview sometimes hundreds of young boys to see whether they recognise items that belonged to the Dalai Lama and pick one as a reincarnation.
But the 14th Dalai Lama announced in 2011 that he may be the last, seeking to preempt any attempt by China to name its own successor.
China's officially atheist Communist Party has repeatedly said it has the right to control the process of reincarnation.