Tokyo, Japan, 22 April 2009 (AFP) - The Dalai Lama on Wednesday accused China of "acting like a child" in cracking down on Tibetans and other minorities, saying it lacked the moral authority of a genuine superpower.
The Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters in Japan that while China could boast military, economic and population muscle, it feared even small signs of dissent.
Addressing a Tokyo news conference on a stopover before a speaking tour of Europe and the United States, he said he saw China, "such a big nation, acting like a child."
He said the government routinely arrested individuals with different views, but stressed that "such a big nation of over one billion people (should have) no need for such sort of fear."
"One or two persons have different views, and immediately they are in trouble with the government. No. You're a big nation. You should have more self-confidence."
He said he believed that while Tibetans are poor but have openness on their side, "one weakness of the Chinese government is that it is not transparent, always telling distorted information."
The Tibetan leader said China was on the path to becoming a superpower and already had the "power of population, power of military and power of economy."
"Now the fourth condition to becoming a superpower is moral authority," he said. "That is lacking. Moral authority is very, very essential. Trust is key. State secrets destroy trust. That is the greatest obstacle to authority."
The Dalai Lama was speaking 50 years after arriving in Indian exile after fleeing China's crackdown against a 1959 uprising in the Himalayan territory, and more than a year since forces again cracked down on protesters.
Fierce anti-China riots broke out in Lhasa in March last year and spread across Tibet and adjacent areas with Tibetan populations, deeply embarrassing the Chinese government as it prepared to host the Beijing Summer Olympics.
Tibetan activist groups say thousands of people may have been arrested in the crackdown, and the exiled Tibetan government has said more than 200 were killed.
Beijing says "rioters" were responsible for 21 deaths and that its security forces killed only one "insurgent."
Asked about sentences handed down to Tibetans for arson during the riots, including the death penalty, the Dalai Lama said that, while criminals should be punished, he did not trust China's courts.
"All these sentences are politically motivated," he said, "so we have great reservations.
"The PRC (People's Republic of China) as a whole is without rule of law, no independent judiciary. Everything is controlled by the party."
China has blamed the Dalai Lama for inciting the unrest, responding with a massive security crackdown on the region.
While the Dalai Lama says he is seeking only greater autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule, Beijing calls him a separatist and pressures world leaders not to meet with the Nobel Peace laureate.
He retorted Wednesday that China's rulers "are very much short-sighted" and - employing a term commonly used against him - said their actions themselves were being "splittist."
"We have sincerely committed to remain part of the PRC for our own interest, for our economic development, provided (we have) minimal autonomy to safeguard our culture, our spirituality and the environment."
Ending his news conference, he chuckled that he expected "a scolding" from China's state-run news agency Xinhua for his comments.
The Dalai Lama was due to fly Wednesday to engagements in the United States and Europe, including Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands.