October 3, 2004

Tibet: Dalai Lama says Talks with China are moving slowly

Talks with China over the Tibet issue are making only slow progress, hindered by Beijing's fears of Tibetan independence, the Dalai Lama said on Monday
Talks with China over the Tibet issue are making only slow progress, hindered by Beijing's fears of Tibetan independence, the Dalai Lama said on Monday.

"So far, our main effort is to build confidence so detailed discussions on different matters have not yet started," the Buddhist leader said in an interview in Mexico City.

Direct contact between exiled Tibetans and Beijing was suspended in 1993 but quietly revived two years ago as an economically resurgent China seeks to improve its global image.

Representatives of the Dalai Lama spent two weeks in China from Sept. 12 but he said he had few details of what was discussed with government officials.

China still regards the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace laureate as a dangerous separatist, even though he renounced Tibetan independence as a goal years ago.

"Of course, the Chinese government officials seem full of suspicion so under these circumstances it is difficult to discuss," he said.

Beijing imposed communist rule on Tibet after its troops invaded in 1950 and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 in an abortive uprising.

There were no direct talks for 20 years. Recent dialogue has focused on the environment, religious and human rights and Tibetan efforts to make China drop its suspicions.

"Firstly, we are trying to make clear we are not seeking independence. That is the key thing," said the Dalai Lama, who wants only enhanced autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

China might be more willing to strike a deal on Tibet ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Tibetan officials say.

THE HU FACTOR

The ascent of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who presided over Tibet from 1988 to 1992 as party chief, has also raised hopes of agreement between exiled Tibetans and Beijing.

Hu became head of the Chinese military last month, completing his rise to rule all of China.

Tibet watchers say the Dalai Lama may be angling for permission from China to make a pilgrimage to Buddhist holy mountains in China, outside of Tibet.

"For many years I have had a great desire to visit China and not just a visit but a pilgrimage. I am always ready for whenever the Chinese government finds convenient," he said.

Now 69, the Dalai Lama still hopes to see his remote mountainous homeland before he dies. He says China has become a more reasonable adversary over the years.

"I am getting older, it is true, but the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China is also getting older. Everything is changing. Does today's China compare to that of 30 years ago? It is much changed."

Source: Phayul

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