Jul 01, 2008

Tibet: Second Round of Talks Begin

Sample ImageEnvoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing officials are meeting for the second time this year in China to discuss the prospect of greater Tibetan autonomy.

Below is an article published by the Chicago Tribune:

Secrecy surrounded the start of talks between envoys of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government on Tuesday [1 July 2008] aimed at easing tensions following anti-government [demonstrations] in Tibet in March [2008].

Chinese officials would not say where the meeting would be held, what the agenda was, or even when it would start.

The talks follow informal talks held in early May [2008] in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that ended with an offer from Beijing for future discussions.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India, said that envoys Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen would represent the Dalai Lama.

"His holiness the Dalai Lama has instructed the envoys to make every effort to bring about tangible progress to alleviate the difficult situation for Tibetans in their homeland," a statement from the Dalai Lama's office said.

The talks were confirmed Monday [30 June 2008] by Gao Fei, director of the Propaganda Office of the United Front Work Department, which is hosting the meeting. Gao was not available to comment Tuesday [1 July 2008].

Some experts believe Beijing is agreeing to the meetings to ease criticism ahead of the Olympic Games that begin Aug. 8 [2008] in the Chinese capital.

China has been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in quelling the anti-government […] protests in Tibet. Beijing says 22 people died in the violence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, while foreign Tibet supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and a subsequent government crackdown.

Pressure has been growing on both sides to improve relations in the wake of the protests that also hit other areas of China with Tibetan populations in March [2008].

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who left open the possibility of boycotting the opening ceremony soon after the Chinese crackdown in Tibet, said this week he would attend if the Tibet talks made progress.

The Dalai Lama is lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, but Beijing demonizes the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and says he seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing for independence for Tibet.

China has governed Tibet with an iron fist since communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.