WASHINGTON, Sept. 25-Envoys for Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, returned to India on Wednesday after an unusual three-week visit to China and Tibet that included talks with Chinese officials.
The four envoys, led by the Dalai Lama's U.S.-based special envoy Lodi Gyari, met during their trip with officials of the United Front department in Beijing and the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, according to sources who asked not to be named. Beijing had previously described the visit as private. The United Front office manages Beijing's sometimes tense relations with its minority populations.
Local officials also met with the delegation in Shigatse, southwest of Lhasa. A Beijing-based Tibetan official with the United Front accompanied the delegation throughout its travels in China, the sources told RFA's Tibetan service.
No further details were immediately available, and the significance of the meetings remained unclear. But the revelation is certain to fuel speculation about a possible thaw in Chinese relations with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile government.
The Dalai Lama's delegation returned from Tibet to New Delhi on Wednesday. They left for China on Sept. 9 from Dharamsala, in northern India. Delegation leader Lodi Gyari told RFA the envoys would return to Dharamsala in several days to brief the Dalai Lama as well as Tibet's exile prime minister, Samdhong Rimpoche, but he declined to comment in detail on the trip.
The visit comes amid other a flurry of other developments between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, a Nobel peace laureate. Chinese authorities have released six political prisoners this year, and Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's elder brother, returned to Tibet in July for the first time in decades. Foreign reporters and Western parliamentary delegations have meanwhile been granted unusual access to the Himalayan territory.