CORRECTED: China blasts Dalai Lama as Olympic torch arrives

China stepped up its attacks on the Dalai Lama on Monday, blasting him for abusing religion, stirring protests in Tibet and preparing for independence as the Olympic flame arrived in Beijing under tight security.

The scorn aimed at Tibet's exiled spiritual leader indicated Beijing was digging in its heels in the face of mounting pressure from abroad to engage in dialogue with the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The pressure follows weeks of protests and suppression in Tibetan-populated areas of China.

A report by Xinhua, China's official news agency, said the government had evidence the Dalai Lama and his supporters had planned the rash of anti-Chinese unrest across the Himalayan region and nearby areas this month.

The Dalai Lama's office rejected the claim on Monday and called on China to allow in international investigators.

"The self-proclaimed spiritual leader has obviously forgotten his identity, abused his religion and played too much politics," Xinhua said, adding he was building a "pro-independence infrastructure."

If the Dalai Lama "really wishes to be a simple Buddhist monk it's high time for him to stop playing politics and cheating people, Westerners in particular, with his hypocritical 'autonomy' claims," it said.

Several foreign leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush, have urged Beijing to talk to the Dalai Lama's envoys to resolve the issue.

China has said it would only do so if the monk rejected independence for Tibet and Taiwan and used his influence to end the ongoing unrest.

Days of peaceful, monk-led marches in Tibet's capital Lhasa burst into a citywide riot on March 14 that saw Han Chinese shops thrashed and burned and cars overturned.

The government says the violence killed 18 civilians and at least one police officer.

In a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's Web site ( late on Sunday, spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tibet was an internal affair of China's.

"We strongly request the European Union and its member states make a clear distinction between right and wrong, clearly condemn the violent crimes of beating, smashing, looting and burning and avoid taking double standards," Jiang said.

After the Lhasa riot, China ordered thousands of troops into Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas of neighboring provinces to suppress further protests.

Rights groups and Tibet activists abroad fear widespread detentions and abuse. China has banned foreign reporters from traveling independently in the region.

Chinese TV and news reports have focused on the Lhasa mob brutality, but have avoided addressing questions about what lay behind the rampage and other protests.

Instead, the government has blamed the Dalai Lama and his supporters for trying to disrupt the Olympics.

Tenzin Taklha, one of the senior aides of the Dalai Lama, said China's claim it has evidence of the monk's complicity in the Tibet protests were unfounded.

"Again these are baseless accusations and instead of these we would call for international groups to go into Tibet," he said.

"We will call upon China to allow an international group to go and investigate these claims by the Chinese."

Many Chinese, taking a cue from the government, have criticized foreign media for anti-China bias and expressed anger at Tibetans for being ungrateful for the benefits China has offered them.

(Additional reporting by Lindsay Beck, and by Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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