BEIJING -- Chinese officials accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, of trying to sabotage this summer's Beijing Olympics, suggesting Friday they are prepared to take harsh measures against any group causing instability in the Himalayan region.
The ruling Communist Party routinely accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to undermine Chinese authority by pushing for independence for Tibet, although he says he wants meaningful autonomy for the region, not independence.
"China earned the qualifications in order to host the Olympics. But he is even trying to sabotage this important event and spread rumors," said Zhang Qingli, the region's Communist Party secretary, its top official.
Zhang did not say how the Dalai Lama was trying to sabotage the Games, which are five months away.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate reportedly told British broadcaster ITV News earlier this year that protests at the Olympics could highlight government policies he says are eroding Tibet's traditional Buddhist culture.
Tibet will be highlighted during the Olympic torch relay, which follows an ambitious route that includes a stop at the top of Mount Everest, which straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal.
Activists have indicated they may use the high-profile event to air their grievances against the Chinese government. But the head of China's armed police command in Tibet, Kang Jingzhong, warned against any protests.
"If there is an unstable element in Tibet, for example, the sabotage activities of the Dalai clique, then under these special and individual circumstances we will take corresponding measures to uphold stability," he said.
Zhang and Kang spoke at a meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People with delegates attending the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's ceremonial legislature.
Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand. Beijing enforces strict controls on religious institutions and routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 amid an aborted uprising against Chinese rule and won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.
China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially an independent state for most of that time.