July 4, 2008

Tibet: More Talks Planned

Sample ImageChina has said there may be a third round of talks with Tibet this year, however little is known of any progress made in talks just concluded in Beijing.

Below is an article published by the New York Times:

China agreed Thursday [3 July 2008] to hold another round of discussions with envoys of the Dalai Lama before the end of the year, but officials declined to say if the two sides made any progress after the negotiations that ended this week.

Tibetan envoys left Beijing on Thursday [3 July 2008] after two days of private meetings and planned to brief the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, home of the Tibetan government in exile.

“I’m told that they will return to Dharamsala tomorrow,” said Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the government in exile. “I really don’t have any information.”

The outcome of this week’s talks has taken on international significance in the aftermath of the [demonstrations] in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, and parts of western China in March [2008]. The United States and many European countries have called on China to engage in direct talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France raised hopes this week for a possible breakthrough.

On Thursday afternoon [3 July 2008], China’s official news agency, Xinhua, confirmed the latest round of talks and quoted unidentified officials as saying there had been an agreement for more discussions by year’s end “if the Dalai Lama made positive moves.”

Xinhua offered no specifics about the talks this week, though it noted that the two senior envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, had toured the Olympic stadiums in Beijing and met with local Tibet specialists.

The Chinese delegation was led by Du Qinglin, leader of the United Front Work Department, the Communist Party organization that plays a lead role in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Xinhua article seemed less strident in tone than other recent state media reports, which have continued to demonize the Dalai Lama — even as China has promised to meet with his representatives in good faith.

China and the Dalai Lama began talks in 2002 that broke off last year without any progress. This spring, China agreed to resume the talks after international condemnation of its handling of the Tibetan [demonstrations]. Human rights groups and pro-Tibet advocacy groups have called on world leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics in August [2008]. Mr. Sarkozy, who has been outspoken on Tibet, has said he will decide whether to attend next week, but polls in China suggest that he would not be welcome.

But the international pressure has sharply diminished since the May 12 [2008] earthquake in Sichuan Province brought China a worldwide outpouring of concern. Some analysts have questioned whether China agreed to renew the talks with the Dalai Lama primarily as a public relations tactic.

The two sides have longstanding differences over the political status of Tibet and on what terms the Dalai Lama would be allowed to return. China has accused the Dalai Lama and his followers of masterminding the March [2008] [demonstrations] to seek independence for Tibet, an accusation he has denied.

The Dalai Lama has criticized China’s policies in Tibetan areas, but he says he wants genuine autonomy for Tibet inside China rather than independence.

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