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The Dalai Lama said Wednesday he believed China's president may be ready to re-launch talks over greater autonomy for the Tibetan region but was being held back by Communist Party hardliners.
Describing Xi Jinping as a "realist", the Tibetan spiritual leader told France 24 television in an interview that the Chinese leader "appreciates Buddhists".
"Some of his close friends also say he is more realistic thinking," he said in response to a question over whether Xi was ready to re-launch negotiations over the Himalayan region.
The ruling Communist Party held nine rounds of dialogue with the Dalai Lama's envoys from 2002 to 2010 but the process produced no visible results.
"At the same time, among the establishment, there is a lot of hardliner-thinking still there. So he himself finds himself in a difficult situation," he said.
The Dalai Lama has previously expressed optimism about the current administration in Beijing, in what some see as a possible easing of tensions with China, which has accused him of seeking secession for Tibet.
He has always retorted that he purely wants more autonomy for the Himalayan region, which has been wracked by a spate of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting China's hardline rule.
But on Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang kept to the official stance when asked about the Dalai Lama's comments, calling on him to "abandon his purpose of separatism and stop undermining the unity of China".
Qin added that the Tibetan spiritual leader needed "to take concrete actions and create conditions for any contact between him and Chinese government".
In an interview with AFP in October, the Dalai Lama also indicated that he was in informal talks with China to make what would be a historic pilgrimage to a sacred mountain in the country.
He told France 24 in the Wednesday interview he had previously expressed this desire to the Chinese government, which had responded that it was too politically sensitive.
"Now I have completely retired from political responsibilities, so let us see," he said.
"Recently, there are some mixed signals. Some officials say they are favourable, some are negative."