China in 'life and death' battle with Tibetan dissidents, party chief says

Tibet's Communist party chief launched a personal attack against the Dalai Lama in the wake of anti-government protests in Tibet, saying that China is locked in a 'life-and-death battle' with his supporters.

Tibet's Communist party chief launched a personal attack against the Dalai Lama in the wake of anti-government protests in Tibet, saying that China is locked in a "life-and-death battle" with his supporters.

Zhang Qingli, Tibet's Communist party chief, looks on during a group meeting held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 7. ((Ng Han Guan/Associated Press))

"The Dalai is a wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast," Zhang Qingli was quoted Wednesday in the Tibet Daily as saying at a meeting of the Tibet government.

"We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy," Zhang said.

Zhang's comments come as state media reported more than 100 people had surrendered to police in and around Tibet's capital. However, statements by the Chinese government are difficult to verify because of China's tight control over information and a ban on trips by foreign reporters.

The government has promised leniency for protesters who turn themselves in but has warned it will harshly punish those who do not.

Protest turned violent

The Lhasa protests, led by monks, began peacefully March 10 on the anniversary of a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule. But the demonstrations turned violent Friday. Tibet's governor has said 13 people were killed by mob violence in the main city of Lhasa. Tibetan exiles, however, pegged the death toll at 80 protesters, and blamed violence on a government crackdown.

Beijing has blamed Tibet's spiritual leader for orchestrating the violence in Lhasa. The Dalai Lama, head of the Tibetan government in exile, said on Tuesday he would step down as political leader if violence continues in his homeland.

He has denied claims that he instigated the violence, and has urged his followers to show restraint and remain peaceful.

The Dalai Lama suggested the violence in Tibet could have been incited by China to discredit his authority there. 

"It's possible some Chinese agents are involved there," he said. "Sometimes totalitarian regimes are very clever, so it is important to investigate."

With files from the Associated Press