CHINA'S angry reaction over the awarding of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama suggests that a difficult road lies ahead for advocates of Tibetan autonomy, Western diplomats say. Beijing has rejected calls by the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and political leader of millions of Tibetans, to permit Tibet the powers of self-government on all matters but foreign affairs and defense.
The international acclaim for the Dalai Lama is likely to put Chinese leaders on the defensive, strengthening their commitment to tight military controls over Tibet and toughening their refusal to negotiate with the exiled Tibetan government.
``The Chinese are not going to give in on any of the fundamental issues,'' one Western diplomat says. ``Tibet represents too large a piece of Chinese territory.''
In an expectedly harsh reaction, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman last weekend voiced Beijing's ``extreme regret and indignation'' over the honor given the Tibetan Bhuddist leader. The Nobel Committee selection constitutes ``open support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan separatists in their activities to undermine national unity and split China,'' the spokesman said.
Beijing is likely to interpret the award as a further attempt by Western democratic nations to isolate and sanction China for its brutal suppression of spring protests for democracy.
The granting of the prize to the Dalai Lama, whom Chinese leaders have accused of collaborating with ``hostile foreign forces'' to split China, neatly conforms to the xenophobic world view espoused by Beijing since the June 3-4 massacre. Chinese leaders have recently accused ``international reactionary forces'' of using propaganda, trade and other peaceful means to try to overthrow the Communist Party and institute capitalism in China.
``The reactionary forces abroad, who indulge in vain hopes of splitting Tibet from the big socialist family, will never succeed,'' officials of the pro-Beijing Tibetan Buddhist Association stated in a meeting, the state-run New China News Agency reported Monday.
By kindling Beijing's concern over possible renewed independence protests, the award could provoke more severe repression of Tibetans opposed to Chinese rule.
Expecting a wave of publicity and praise for the Dalai Lama, Beijing is unlikely to lift martial law in force since last March in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, diplomats say.
``Martial law ... will continue for some time,'' said one Western envoy on condition of anonymity. The award ``will not be helpful in that regard,'' he said.
Under martial law, China has jailed hundreds of Tibetans who took part in some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in Lhasa since Chinese troops annexed the region in 1951.
Many imprisoned Tibetans, including Bhuddist monks and nuns, were tortured by local authorities during a severe crackdown on dissent, according to international human rights groups.
Thousands of troops stationed in and around Lhasa are maintaining a tense calm in the Tibetan capital, which remains closed to foreign journalists, diplomats, and travelers - including Tibetan 'emigr'es - with the exception of those escorted on official tours.
China has officially acknowledged more than 20 instances of pro-independence protests in Tibet since September 1987.