Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay on Saturday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to resolve the matter of Tibet’s sovereignty through dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Beijing. Sangay was speaking at the 59th Tibetan National Uprising Day event at Dharamsala, organised to commemorate the Tibetan government’s 60 years in exile.

Sangay said the Central Tibetan Administration (also known as the Tibetan government-in-exile which China does not recognise) had decided to mark this year as a “Thank You Year” to acknowledge the solidarity of the Indian government and countries around the world which have supported the cause of Tibetan self-rule, The Indian Express reported.

“Given the hardline policies of the Chinese government, 152 Tibetans from the three provinces of Tibet have self-immolated since 2009, calling for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama,” Sangay claimed. He said Tibetans had continued to resist Beijing’s increasingly repressive policies with “unwavering conviction”.

“To artificially say that you can practice Buddhism but not follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama is akin to saying you can be a Catholic but not follow the Pope,” Sangay said according to IANS.

Sangay also demanded that a fact-finding team of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization visit the Jokhang shrine in Lhasa, where a fire damaged some holy artefacts in February. He said independent journalists should also be allowed to visit the shrine.

The Tibetan leader added that China’s increasing economic prosperity had not left any impact on Tibet, which remained one of the poorest regions in the world. He claimed that only ethnic Chinese who had come to Tibet in recent years had benefited from the Chinese economic boom.

Last week, reports suggested that the Indian government had asked its senior leaders to avoid attending events planned by the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, in order to maintain ties with China. On Saturday, Bharatiya Janata Party MP George Baker from the Rajya Sabha attended the Tibetan National Uprising Day event.