A senior Chinese official has called on Tibetans to resist foreign influence on their Buddhist religion, state media said Sunday, in the latest comments apparently targeting exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Yu Zhengsheng, one of the ruling Communist party’s seven most powerful officials, told locals to “firmly resist foreign influence on Tibetan Buddhism,” in a visit to the Himalayan region, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Yu Zhengsheng. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The report did not elaborate on the alleged foreign influence.

“We should guide and support representative Tibetan Buddhist figures to use the leading principles of the core socialist values to explain doctrine, and promote the adaption of Buddhism to socialist society,” Yu added in comments at the Galden Jampaling Monastery on Saturday.

Beijing says its troops “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951 and insists it has since brought development to a previously backward region where serfs were exploited.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama waves to devotees outside the United Nations where the Human Rights Council is holding it’s 31st Session in Geneva, Switzerland, March 11, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

But many Tibetans accuse officials of repressing their religion and eroding their culture, adding that natural resources are exploited to benefit China‘s ethnic Han majority at the expense of the environment.

Yu’s other remarks stressed the importance of economic development and the construction of electric power lines.

More than 140 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing’s rule, according to tallies from rights groups. Most have died.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, but is still deeply revered by many Tibetans in China.

Beijing accuses the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of being a “wolf in monk’s robes” who seeks Tibetan independence through “spiritual terrorism”.

Latest

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.