China-Tibet Talks Restart

Negotiations resume, but expectations aren't high.

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Tibetan Envoys 305 Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's special envoys for talks Lodi Gyari (R) and Kelsang Gyaltsen, July 5, 2008.
AFP Photo

DHARAMSALA—Envoys from the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have arrived in China for a ninth round of talks with Chinese officials, exiled Tibetan sources said.

The meetings are scheduled to be held in Beijing, according to a statement by the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile.

The Tibetan delegation will include the Dalai Lama's special envoy in Washington Lodi Gyari, senior envoy of the Dalai Lama Kelsang Gyaltsen, and International Campaign for Tibet director Bhuchung Tsering.

Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha and Jigme Pasang, both members of the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations, will accompany the delegation, the statement said.

An eighth round of talks between China and envoys from the Tibetan government-in-exile ended in 2008 with no concrete agreement.

Chinese officials rejected written proposals from the Tibetan delegation that called for greater autonomy for Tibet within the People's Republic of China.

U.S. stance

The United States welcomed the resumption of talks Monday.

"The United States strongly supports dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama's representatives to address longstanding differences," Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said in a statement. 

"The Administration hopes this meeting will produce positive results and provide a foundation for future discussions to resolve outstanding issues," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama called on Beijing to restart talks with the Dalai Lama, whom the ruling Communist Party shuns as a separatist, during a state visit to China in November.

While affirming that the United States considers the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to be a part of the People's Republic of China, Obama called on Beijing to re-initiate stalled talks with envoys from Dharamsala.

"The United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have," ran the text of a joint communique issued by Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao.

In Beijing, Hu also called on the United States not to allow what he called movements aimed at "separating China" to be active on its soil.

The Dalai Lama has pursued a "Middle Way" policy of insisting on greater autonomy and better treatment for Tibetans under Chinese rule, and some Tibetans overseas are calling for a tougher stance.

Mixed response

Former officials of the Tibetan exile government had mixed reactions to news of the latest try at talks.

"I don't think anything will come out of it," Karma Choephel, a former speaker of the house of the Tibetan parliament, said.

"The last time that [Tibetan] envoys met with Chinese officials for talks, they provided the Chinese side with a document presenting the Tibetan position, called 'Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People'."

"Since then, China has been misrepresenting many of the underlying points of that document all around the world," he said.

"I am one of those people who have no faith in China's sincerity."

Pema Choejor, a former cabinet minister, welcomed the meetings.

"The Tibet issue has to be resolved through dialogue," he said.

"In recent days, we have seen Chinese leaders holding meetings on Tibet... And growing numbers of Chinese intellectuals openly criticize China for its policies on Tibet. So all these things may be having an impact on the thinking of China's leadership."

But former cabinet chairman Tenzin Tethong voiced skepticism.

"In the past, China has invited Tibetan envoys several times and has pretended to engage in talks, whereas in reality there has been no substantive policy shift on the Tibet issue."

"On the contrary, China's criticism of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has grown more frequent and more vicious," Tethong said. "So I really don't know what to make of this."

Protests in Tibet

The last Tibetan delegation to China met with Du Qinglin, head of China's United Front Work, and with other officials.

It also visited traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan Province, and the Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, and Chengdu, he said.

Rioting rocked the Tibetan capital Lhasa in March 2008 and spread to Tibetan regions of western China, causing official embarrassment ahead of the August 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Officials say 21 people—including three Tibetan protesters—died in the Lhasa riot, which Beijing blamed on the Dalai Lama and his supporters.

At least 200 Tibetans were later killed by Chinese security forces in a region-wide crackdown, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The Chinese Communist Party has carried out widespread "patriotic education" campaigns in recent years, requiring monks and nuns to pass examinations on political texts, agree that Tibet is historically a part of China, and denounce the Dalai Lama.

Original reporting by RFA's Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Jan 25, 2010 07:55 AM

A very well compiled report but in future please do not take opinions of people like karma Choephell, he may have been a past speaker but he has no credibility to comment on anyone's sincerety.I would not be lying if I say sincerity level of Chinese on the Tibet issue and Karma Choephells sincereity on is role as a parliamantarian are equally frustating.

Jan 26, 2010 06:51 AM

This 9th resumption of talk between dharsa and beijing is most welcomed and hope this time both parties sincerely come to a agreement of not playing any dualism after such official talk