Former top Communist Party aide Bao Tong at his Beijing home, March 2008. Photo: RFA
Radio Free Asia
— A former top aide in China's ruling Communist Party has called for sincerity and "real dialogue" in talks between Beijing officials and Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, which China says will occur soon.
"What the Chinese people want to see is real dialogue which has the potential to lead to mutual understanding and reconciliation," Bao Tong, former aide to ousted late Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, said in an essay broadcast on RFA's Mandarin service.
Bao rejected the view that China's offer of talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives, made Friday via the official Xinhua news agency, were a cynical attempt to placate international anger at the crackdown on Tibetan unrest in March, ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
"That view is wrong," he wrote from his Beijing home, where he has remained under house arrest since his detention in the wake of the student-led Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.Conflict resolution
"Dialogue is in fact the only normal, legal way to resolve this conflict," said Bao, who has long supported Zhao's insistence on talking to protesting students in 1989, a policy that led to both men's political downfall.
"It is the path which will ultimately cost the least, and the one which will lead most quickly to the healing of wounds, with the most bearable side-effects and consequences."
But he warned that the talks, the specific details of which have yet to be finalized, should not be allowed to "mutate" into a disguised form of conflict.
"All dialogue, if it is to have a hope of success, must begin with a genuine desire to find out the situation and position of the other side," said Bao, whose views still command widespread respect and quiet support among China's political elite.
"Criticism, obstructiveness, and attacks on the other side will end in failure because that sort of 'dialogue' isn't really a dialogue at all," said Bao, who had called publicly for negotiations with the Dalai Lama after the armed crackdown on anti-Chinese protests and riots which flared up in Lhasa March 14 and spread to other Tibetan areas of the country.
"It is just opposition in another guise. Once this unfortunate mutation occurs, dialogue is a dead duck," he added.Harmonious society
"Since the Lhasa incident more than six weeks ago, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, has repeatedly requested talks with the Chinese government. Mainstream international opinion has also been working towards dialogue, only to be met with vehement refusal from the relevant authorities in Beijing," said Bao, calling China's position "hard to understand."
Now things appeared to have taken a turn for the better, he said. But he challenged the government to keep the political slogan of "a harmonious society" at the top of the agenda.
The talks would be the first contact between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's representatives in more than a year.
China on Tuesday urged the Dalai Lama to "cherish" the opportunity of the planned talks, calling on him to end violence in Tibet ahead of the Olympics.
"We hope the Dalai can cherish this opportunity, recognize the situation, and change his position to take concrete measures to stop his criminal acts of violence, stop his sabotage of the Beijing Olympics and his separatist activities, so as to create conditions for the next step of talks," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing.
Beijing has blamed the Tibetan unrest on the exiled spiritual leader, who fled Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959, and says he is working towards independence for the Himalayan region. The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, denies both charges, calling instead for greater autonomy and religious freedom for Tibetans.
Bao said he welcomed the government's offer of talks but added: "Skill in negotiating is secondary, as is saving face. We don't want a war of words."
Original essay by Bao Tong, broadcast on RFA's Mandarin service. Director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.