By Benjamin Kang Lim and Frank Jack Daniel
(Reuters) – For decades, Beijing has maintained that the Dalai Lama is a separatist, but Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader once had a special relationship with the father of Xi Jinping, the man in line to become China’s next president.
Few people know what Xi, whose ascent to the leadership is likely to be approved at a Communist Party congress later this year, thinks of Tibet or the Dalai Lama.
But his late father, Xi Zhongxun, a liberal-minded former vice premier, had a close bond with the Tibetan leader who once gave the elder Xi an expensive watch in the 1950s, a gift that the senior party official was still wearing decades later.
The Dalai Lama, 77, recalls the elder Xi as “very friendly, comparatively more open-minded, very nice” and says he only gave watches back then to those Chinese officials he felt close to.
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