BEIJING, Oct 11 (Reuters) China is questioning the loyalty of ethnic Tibetan members of the ruling Communist Party, accusing many of swearing their true allegiance to the Dalai Lama, according to an internal memo.
The Septober 4 memo, issued by the Party's Discipline and Inspection Commission, highlights ongoing concerns about stability in Tibet, the largely Buddhist western region into which Chinese troops marched in 1950.
''It calls on the Party in Tibet to carry out a kind of campaign - I suppose a kind of rectification campaign - to reassess the loyalty of the members,'' said Robbie Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University who had parts of the memo read to him.
''The content seems to be this question of whether the Party members in Tibet are reliable or are supporting the Dalai Lama.'' Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted the memo directly, saying it accused internal dissidents of ''suckling at the breast of the Chinese Communist Party, while calling the Dalai Lama mother''.
''There still exists a small number of dissident elements within our Party whose commitment to its ideals, beliefs, and political standpoint is a wavering one,'' Washington-based RFA quoted the memo as saying.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Authorities have since all but erased his presence from the region's Buddhist monasteries but many in Tibet still consider him their spiritual leader.
The document raises at least two specific cases of disloyalty on the part of Tibetans: a Party member who was expelled for shouting ''reactionary slogans'', and a schoolteacher who told his pupils that the Panchen Lama recognised by China was a fake.
The Panchen Lama is Tibet's second-highest spiritual leader.
DALAI LAMA DENOUNCED China's state media has in the last week issued several reports denouncing the Dalai Lama, possibly in reaction to the announcement that US President George W Bush is to present him with the Congressional Gold Medal on October 17.
In its latest invective against him, China's official Xinhua news agency on October 9 accused the Dalai Lama of supporting ''evil cults'', namely Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out a sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12.
The Dalai Lama says he wants greater autonomy for his homeland, not independence, but China has continued to consider him a separatist.
Rights groups say political repression in Tibet and in parts of western China dominated by ethnic Tibetans is worsening as the Party seeks to stifle dissent and ensure a stable environment for its five-yearly Congress, which opens next week.
The International Campaign for Tibet said the military presence in ethnic Tibetan counties of Sichuan province has increased since villager Runggye Adak addressed a crowd of people on the need for greater religious freedom and for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return to China from exile in India.
Local people, including schoolchildren, have been asked to denounce the Dalai Lama, the Washington-based group said.
The Party secretary of Tibet, Zhang Qingli, has also pledged to maintain stability in the remote, mountainous region to ensure the success of the Party Congress and the 2008 Olympic Games, which open in Beijing next August.
Zhang is seen as a hardliner, whose term in Tibet has been shaped by a rare demonstration at a Lhasa monastery last year that coincided with the beginning of his post.
''His reaction has been very strong,'' said Barnett.
REUTERS ARB KP0933