Jun 23, 2004

Tibet: Treat Tibet like Hong Kong or Macau

A top leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India has urged China to treat Tibet like Hong Kong or Macau
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Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh), India : In what is being seen as a major policy statement, a top leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile here has urged China to treat Tibet like Hong Kong or Macau.

By giving Tibet the kind of autonomy that Hong Kong and Macau enjoy, Beijing would gain international legitimacy over its control of Tibet. And this could be best achieved while the Dalai Lama was still around.

Samdhong Rinpoche, who is the Kalon Tripa - the equivalent of prime minister - of the Tibetan government-in-exile, also said that the next round of dialogue with China would be more "business like" -- to start negotiations on Tibet's future.

In an exclusive interview with IANS at his office at Mcleodganj near this hill resort, Rinpoche said it was time for China to stop being "suspicious and afraid" of the popularity of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual head who lives in India.

"If our demand of genuine autonomy for Tibetans in their homeland is agreed to by the Chinese within the framework of their constitution, we would (only) legitimise their control over the territory," Rinpoche said.

The Tibetan leadership headed by the Dalai Lama has been living in India since 1959 after fleeing from their homeland. China took control of Tibet saying it was part of its territory.

Rinpoche, the first elected chairman of the exile government's cabinet, said granting genuine autonomy to Tibet was not impossible because Hong Kong as well as Macau already enjoy such autonomy.

The urge among the Tibetan leadership, having been away from their homeland for nearly 45 years, to return has grown.

"We are absolutely sure that the Tibet issue would be resolved within the lifetime of the Dalai Lama," said Rinpoche. But he warned that patience among the Tibetan youth, most of them born outside Tibet, was fast running out.

"The issue would be resolved peacefully as long as the Dalai Lama is around. No one would disobey his middle path approach based on non-violence. After him, the Tibetan leadership cannot give any assurance.

"The youth and other organisations can decide the course of future struggle then.

"China recognises only the Dalai Lama as the leader of Tibetans. They don't recognise our parliament, government-in-exile or Kashag (cabinet). Only he is capable of negotiating with them."

China and the Dalai Lama's representatives opened a dialogue in September 2002 after nearly two decades of silence.

The visit of the Dalai Lama's envoys - Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen - then and again in May 2003 was seen as a move to re-establish contact and work towards confidence building.

The Tibetan establishment here is now waiting for the Chinese response to its request for further talks made in October. The Tibetan leadership is not averse to Chinese leaders and officials coming to see the working of the government-in-exile here.

"They are most welcome to come here," Rinpoche said. He hoped that talks this time should be "business-like" and work out modalities for the start of serious negotiations.

Source: Kerala Next