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China Plans Talks With Dalai Lama Envoys

By Daniel Schearf

Beijing

29 October 2008

China says it will soon hold another round of talks with envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing that just a few days ago the Dalai Lama had reportedly given up on the talks.

China's official Xinhua news agency reports a new round of talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys would be arranged in the near future.

The report did not elaborate on a possible date for the discussions, but said they were being arranged at the request of the Dalai Lama. The two sides have met numerous times to discuss their positions on Tibet, but with no breakthrough agreement.

Reports last week indicated the Dalai Lama had given up hope of progress, after not having received any positive response from Beijing.

Social Science Professor Barry Sautman of Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology said those reports were likely a negotiating tactic.

"He is putting the Chinese government on notice that if there is not some progress made in the 8th round of talks between his envoys and the representatives of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party ... then there will be some consequences," he said.

Sautman said if the talks are not successful, those consequences could be felt when the Tibetan exiles in Dharmsala, India, convene a meeting in mid-November.

The exiles are to discuss whether they want to continue negotiations for Tibetan autonomy or take more radical measures such as supporting independence. The Dalai Lama says he wants genuine autonomy for Tibetans to protect their religion and culture, but Beijing accuses him of supporting separatism in the province.

Beijing has long called for the Dalai Lama to recognize Tibet as a legitimate part of China.

Sautman said the Dalai Lama has recognized Beijing's rule over Tibet, but has never acknowledged it as legitimate. He said this leaves room for negotiating an agreement.

"Those guarantees would have to take the form in some sense of a working together of the Communist Party and the Dalai Lama's representatives in the future in terms of the political structure of Tibet," he said. "So, that there would be some mechanism for the constant interchange of ideas that would be focused on preserving Tibetan culture and religion."

The two sides last met in July and had met in May after monk-led anti-government demonstrations in Tibet turned violent.

Beijing says 22 Han Chinese were killed during March riots while Tibetan exiles say there were many more Tibetan casualties.

China has held influence over Tibet for centuries but only took control after its communist troops invaded in the early 1950s. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against China's communist rule.

Beijing points out Tibet has made great economic and social achievements under communist rule. But Tibetans complain about tight controls on religion and discrimination that favors Han Chinese.



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