Tibetan exile leaders this week affirmed their commitment to nonviolence and dialogue with China at the conclusion of talks to discuss what they called a “deepening political crisis” amid a wave of self-immolations and other protests challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibet.
The two-day meeting of the Task Force on Negotiations beginning on Monday was chaired by Lobsang Sangay, the political leader of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), as the exile government is called.
“The task force meeting discussed the deteriorating situation in Tibet and the urgent situation created by the multiple incidents of self-immolations in Tibet,” said Thupten Samphel, head of the Tibetan Policy Institute and spokesman for the task force.
The meeting also discussed “approaches that Tibetans can adopt” in dealing with China following a once-in-a-decade change in China’s national leadership, Samphel said, speaking to RFA’s Tibetan service.
Negotiations between Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s envoys and Beijing have stalled since January 2010. There has been no breakthrough in the discussions that have been held since 2002.
China has ruled Tibet since 1950, and the Chinese government has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule.
Though the possible appointment of new exile Tibetan envoys to the talks with Chinese officials was also addressed, “no decision was made except to wait till March 2013 when the change in the Chinese leadership will be formalized,” Samphel said.
“At that time, another meeting of the Task Force will be convened to discuss the selection of special envoys and the approaches we should initiate,” he said.
Ninety-five Tibetans so far have set themselves ablaze to protest Beijing’s rule and to call for the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.
Though nine rounds of talks between Tibetan representatives and Chinese officials broke down in 2010, Tibet’s exile leadership “strongly believes that the only way to resolve the issue of Tibet is through dialogue,” the CTA said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Substance being primary and process secondary, we are ready to engage in meaningful dialogue anywhere and at any time,” said Lobsang Sangay, who was elected prime minister of Tibet's exile government in 2011 after the Dalai Lama relinquished his political duties.
Refusal to talk
But China has so far refused to acknowledge envoys of Tibet’s exile government and has insisted that, if talks resume, it will meet only with representatives of the Dalai Lama himself.
“The exile government and the Dalai Lama seem to want China to negotiate with the government and not with the Dalai Lama, except in a purely nominal sense,” said Columbia University Tibet expert Robbie Barnett.
“The Tibetans may have to realize that it’s not possible for the Chinese, in a realistic political world, to talk to officials of the exile government who are now only presented as nominal representatives of the Dalai Lama,” Barnett said.
“Or it may be that the Chinese side is finding other excuses for not talking. We actually don’t know.”
In any case, CTA officials have failed to explain to Tibetans “why and how this process could actually work,” Barnett said.
“And this gives huge advantage to their radical, anti-compromise, anti-China critics.”
Reported by Tenzin Wangyal for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.