BEIJING, July 20 (UPI) -- The man destined to take over the leadership of China said he will "smash" any plan to undermine Tibet's place within China.
Xi Jinping made the statement during a major trip to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, where he and his entourage of nearly 60 senior central government delegates were celebrating China's takeover of Tibet in the 1950s.
Xi, who is vice president of China, made particular reference to the self-exiled Dalai Lama in the speech the Chinese leader made in front of the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama's traditional home.
Xi said China and Tibet "should thoroughly fight against separatist activities by the Dalai clique by firmly relying on all ethnic groups ... and completely smash any plot to destroy stability in Tibet and jeopardize national unity."
He also made reference to Tibet's economic development under Chinese rule.
"The extraordinary development of Tibet over the past 60 years points to an irrefutable truth -- without the Chinese Communist Party, there would have been no new China, no new Tibet," he said.
Xi and his delegation were joining in ceremonies to commemorate what the communist party calls "Tibet's peaceful liberation" by Chinese troops in the late 1950s.
They attended the opening ceremony of a museum in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The museum is a showpiece of the "historic materials and modern technologies" that demonstrate Tibet's development under Beijing's rule.
It also shows how the central government has helped in the "cultural and ecological preservation" of Tibet, a report by the national Chinese news agency Xinhua stated.
The speech by Xi, who is expected to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2013, reflects Beijing's continuing sensitivity over Tibet and its place in international relations.
The communist party is particularly incensed by calls by the Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who resides in northern India, for more autonomy for Tibet.
Beijing's latest outburst over the Dalai Lama's meetings with political leaders focused on a private get together with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House last weekend.
Beijing called the meeting "gross interference in the internal affairs of China" and supports separatist forces in Tibet.
The 45-minute meeting also "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and damages Sino-U.S. relations," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "The issue regarding Tibet concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and we firmly oppose any foreign official to meet with the Dalai Lama in any form."
Xi's speech in Tibet marks another step in cementing the public persona of a man whom most Westerners will be seeing more often representing Chinese interests in the international arena.
Xi, who was born in Beijing in 1953 to former Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun, a Communist Party hero, is principal of the Central Party School. He also is a senior member of the Politburo Standing Committee, in effect the country's ruling Cabinet.
Xi is noted for being a hard-line but lively politician. His second marriage is to a celebrity folk singer and army Maj. Gen. Peng Liyuan.
Xi hasn't refrained from hurling barbed comments at Western leaders and media in the recent past. He once warned critics of China to "stop pointing fingers at us."
However, Xi also has enrolled his daughter in Harvard University under a pseudonym, The New York Times reported in January.