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China Calls Military Exercises in Tibet an 'Anti-Terrorist Drill' - 2003-11-18

China recently conducted military exercises in Tibet in what officials say was an anti-terrorist drill. A Chinese official says the exercises were meant to keep forces ready for a crackdown on what he called separatists allied with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The operations took place last week, with Chinese troops engaging in drills on rescuing hostages, and handling bombs and biochemical attacks.

The Communist Party chief in Tibet, Guo JinLong, was quoted by the government newspaper China Tibet News as accusing followers of Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, of stepping up "terrorist" activities to pursue their goal of establishing an autonomous state.

The comments attributed to the regional party leader were not echoed by the central government authorities in Beijing.

At a regular briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao was asked if the Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama a terrorist.

Mr. Liu stopped short of answering the question, saying only that China opposes terrorism wherever it occurs.

China's government accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to break Tibet away from China, which has controlled it since Chinese troops invaded the mountainous region in 1951.

Since then, the spiritual leader has been living in neighboring India and traveling extensively to promote non-violent opposition to Chinese domination in his homeland. His efforts to push for peaceful resistance won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. There have been no reports of terrorist activity in Tibet in recent memory.

China has lately stepped up its verbal attacks on the Dalai Lama and criticized nations including the United States, France, and Japan for allowing him to visit in recent months.