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China's Xi calls for 'new socialist Tibet' - Xinhua

China-Central Asia Summit joint press conference in Xian

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called on Tibet to build a prosperous, harmonious and "new socialist Tibet" underpinned by unity and civility, days after Group of Seven (G7) nations expressed concern over human rights in the region.

In rare comments on Tibet, Xi said the region should step up efforts to promote high-quality development after overcoming "centuries" of extreme poverty, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Tibet's economy expanded to 216.5 billion yuan ($31 billion) by value last year, matching China's national growth rate of 3%. Despite Tibet's rapid economic development in recent years, China is often accused of stifling religious and cultural freedoms in a predominantly Buddhist region, an accusation which Beijing rejects.

In a communique released after a gathering of G7 leaders in Hiroshima over the weekend, the group said it will keep voicing its concerns about the human rights situation in China, including in Tibet, angering Beijing, which regards affairs related to the region as purely internal.

"People's happiness is the ultimate human right, while development holds the key to delivering better lives to the people," Xinhua cited Xi as saying in a congratulatory letter to a forum in Beijing on Tibet's development.

In 2021, Xi made a visit to Tibet - the first by a national leader in three decades. At the time, Xi called for respect for the religious beliefs of the people.

He also stressed governing religious affairs in accordance with the law and guiding Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to a socialist society.

Beijing says it "peacefully liberated" Tibet in 1951 after sending Chinese troops into the region. China says its intervention ended a "backward feudal serfdom", and denied wrongdoing.

In 1959, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled the region after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, with Beijing labelling him a dangerous separatist since.

($1 = 6.9121 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Sharon Singleton)