NON-OFFICIAL GROUP CANCELS PLANNED VISIT TO TIBET


2004-07-21
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Chinese authorities denied request to visit hometowns

Listen to the original report in Tibetan

KATHMANDU, July 21, 2004�A five-member Tibetan exile delegation has cancelled a planned visit to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) after Chinese authorities denied a request for them to visit their hometowns, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

�The delegation isn�t going,� said Amdo Thondup, who was to have taken part in the visit but opposed the request to visit each member�s hometown. �Some members of the delegation proposed their wish to visit their hometowns as a precondition for the delegation to go ahead.�

�The purpose of the delegation was not to visit hometowns,� he told RFA�s Tibetan service, suggesting that the request may have been proposed with the aim of canceling the whole visit.

Two other members of the delegation, Kalon Sonam Topgyal, former chairman of Tibetan exile government, and Alak Jigme Rimpoche, auditor general of Tibetan exile government, recently told Chinese officials in New Delhi that they wish to visit Chamdo and Drakyab, and Rikong and Tsongon, respectively. The Chinese officials refused the request but said it could be discussed in connection with future visits, sources said.

The Chinese side wanted the delegation to travel to Tibet through Hong Kong, Guangdong, Shanghai, Sichuan, to the TAR and then on to Beijing.

Whether a second planned delegation to the TAR in October, including the Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, would go ahead was unclear. The second delegation was initially said to include the head of the Dalai Lama's office in Taiwan, Tsekyam, who speaks fluent Mandarin.

The visits were to follow a gap of several months in negotiations for a visit by a 10-member Tibetan delegation, which were initiated by the Tibetans last September.

While the Dalai Lama�s envoys visited China in 2002 and in 2003, Beijing was angered by several high-profile overseas visits by the Dalai Lama later in the year�including the United States, where he met President George W. Bush and other senior officials in September.

Beijing lodged an official protest at the visit and called on the United States to keep its promise to acknowledge Tibet as a part of China and not to support Tibetan independence.

Both Washington and the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959, say they do not favor Tibetan independence but greater autonomy for the Tibetan people.

The Dalai Lama, during his recent visits overseas, has expressed strong concerns about the �cultural genocide� he sees occurring in his homeland. Beijing has criticized what it calls his attempts to use other countries as a base to carry out splittist activities. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent opposition to Chinese rule. #####

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