China Admits It Needs to Improve Regional Autonomy བོད་སྐད།

China says it is going to work on improving regional autonomy, a rare acknowledgment that its protection of minority group interests still needs work.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters Thursday that China will continue to, in her words, "improve the system of regional national autonomy."

Jiang says China will take various measures to safeguard the "fundamental issues" of all ethnic groups.

Her comments came in response to questions about the Dalai Lama's travels in Europe, this week. Tibet's exiled spiritual leader traveled to Italy and Germany for four days, to receive several awards.

In Italy, the City Council of Rome and Venice gave the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship for his work towards a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue.

In Baden Baden, Germany, the Dalai Lama accepted the German Media prize. A 20-member jury selected him for the award on behalf of the German audience research company, Media Control.

The Dalai Lama told German business and media figures attending the ceremony that Tibetans are not trying to break away from China. He says he is only seeking to ensure religious and cultural autonomy for Tibetans, not independence.

Meanwhile, China continues to insist the 73-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has a separatist agenda. Spokeswoman Jiang says that Tibet was never an independent state and has enjoyed remarkable changes in the last half century, including an end to feudal serfdom.

Jiang says this year marks 50 years of Tibet's democratic reform.

The beginning of March is also the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama fleeing Tibet and a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The Chinese government last month announced this anniversary will be commemorated as "Serf Liberation Day."

Last March, protests by monks in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, led to violent riots and general unrest in the region. Foreign reporters are not allowed into Tibet without official permission. Since the riots, the Chinese government has taken a few small groups of journalists on government-supervised reporting trips.