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China says it will win West over to its view on Tibet, Xinjiang

A Tibetan monk uses a mobile phone near the Dzamthang Jonang monastery in Barma township May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A Tibetan monk uses a mobile phone near the Dzamthang Jonang monastery in Barma township May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Natalie Thomas

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has "time on its side" to win over Western opinion to its point of view on the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, a senior official wrote on Wednesday, vowing with unusually strong language to ignore foreign pressure on human rights.

Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to parliament, acknowledged this would be a difficult task but said dissenting voices were beginning to be heard in the West.

"As China becomes more involved in international affairs, and as Tibet and Xinjiang further open to the world, more and more Westerners will have an understanding of Tibet and Xinjiang that better accords with reality," Zhu wrote in a lengthy article on the government-run website Tibet.cn.

Tibet and Xinjiang are two of China's most sensitive areas when it comes to foreign criticism of its human rights record. Tibet in particular is an emotive issue in the West, attracting high-profile support from politicians and celebrities.

Zhu said the West would finally "see the real face of the Dalai clique and 'East Turkestan'," referring to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the militant forces China says operate in Xinjiang.

Zhu said such views in the West was still "weak and isolated" but they represented "the trend of history". Zhu was heavily involved in the past in Beijing's failed efforts to talk to the Dalai Lama's representatives.

"Without a doubt this will all need long-term, difficult and careful work, as well as much patience, but time is on China's side," he wrote.

China says it has poured money into both the strategically located regions as part of its efforts to bring development to what it says were backward and remote areas and that it respects the rights of people there.

Rights groups and exiles say Beijing tramples on the freedoms of Tibetans, as well as the Muslim Uighur people of Xinjiang, some of whom China says are Islamist extremists who want to set up an independent state called East Turkestan.

Tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang have been running high.

In Tibetan regions of China, including four provinces outside Tibet, more than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest over Chinese rule. Most have died.

In Xinjiang, more than 100 people have died in violence since April 2013, including police, blamed by Beijing on religious extremists and separatists.

Zhu signaled there would be no change in policy.

"What should be developed should be developed, and when stability should be maintained it will be maintained -- (we) must totally disregard whatever the West says," he wrote.

Zhu also criticized foreign leaders who meet the Dalai Lama, many of whom have later found themselves frozen out diplomatically by Beijing.

Those who do so should "pay a price", Zhu said.

"We can only push the West to change its way of thinking if we let them understand that China's power cannot be avoided ... and that the West's interests lie in development and maintaining ties with China, not the opposite," he said.

(Editing by Ben Blanchard and Paul Tait)

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