The head of Tibet's government-in-exile has rejected a claim by Chinese authorities that the Dalai Lama is in talks with Beijing through his envoys about the possibility of his return to Tibet.
But Lobsang Sangay, the political leader of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), left open the possibility of any official dialogue between the two sides aimed at bringing about a resolution to the Tibet question.
"As we have always been transparent, right now there isn’t any official contact or dialogue taking place [with the Chinese leadership]," Sangay told RFA's Tibetan Service.
"If dialogues are to take place, as we stressed earlier, it would be between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and representatives of the new Chinese leadership," he said. "It has been like this before and will remain like this in the future."
China’s government in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) claimed last week that the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, was in discussions with Beijing through his “personal envoys” but the talks were only about the possibility of his return to Tibet.
Wu Yingjie, the deputy secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Committee for Tibet, had told a group of Indian journalists on a special visit to the TAR capital Lhasa that the talks with the Dalai Lama were “ongoing and always smooth, but we are discussing only his future, not Tibet’s.”
“All Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and the people around him, can return if they accept Tibet and Taiwan as part of China, and give up ‘splittist’ efforts,” The Hindu newspaper of India quoted Wu as saying. He claimed that many Tibetan leaders in exile had chosen to return to Tibet in recent years.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in the midst of a failed national uprising in Tibet against Chinese occupation in 1959, and the Chinese government has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
Talks held on Tibet’s status between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing stalled in January 2010. There has been no progress in the discussions since then despite calls from U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders for a resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue.
"If we receive a signal from the Chinese side and a conducive environment is created for possible dialogue, then our side can easily appoint the envoys [for the talks]," Sangay said.
"We attach more importance to the substance than form of the dialogue," he said. "So, the most important objective is to resolve the Tibet issue.”
The Dalai Lama has always said he remains optimistic he will be able to return to Tibet, citing political reforms that have taken place over the last few decades.
But he is reviled by some Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist who seeks to split the formerly self-governing region from Beijing's rule.
The Dalai Lama says he seeks only a meaningful autonomy for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture under his "Middle Way" approach.
When asked by RFA whether the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet would solve the Tibet issue, Sangay said, "There are several possibilities."
"Whatever is the most realistic and practical approach, we pursue that.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the Tibetan people aspire and dream for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. My hope for that becoming a reality is still strong," he said.
"We have made consistent efforts at the international stage for the realization of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return and for the restoration of Tibetan freedom, and recognize the unflinching spirit of Tibetans inside Tibet," Sangay said.
Sangay, a Harvard-educated lawyer, was elected Tibet’s exile political leader in 2011 after the Dalai Lama relinquished his political role as the leader of the government-in-exile, ending a tradition spanning centuries of the Dalai Lamas holding both spiritual and political authority.
Reported by Palden Gyal for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.