China Warning Over Tibet Talks

As Tibetans in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala look for a new policy direction, Beijing warns against any move for Tibetan independence.

tibet-meeting-305.jpg DHARAMSALA, India: Tibetan delegates in exile attend a conference called to discuss the Tibet issue, Nov. 17, 2008.
DHARAMSALA--As Tibetan officials and activists in exile meet in northern India to discuss the next moves in their resistance to Chinese rule, Beijing has warned that any attempt to separate the Himalayan region from the People's Republic of China is "doomed."

Five hundred prominent Tibetans have assembled for a conference called for by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to discuss the future status of Tibet.

But among those gathered at the meeting, which began Monday, a sense has begun to emerge that the "Middle Way" policy of the Dalai Lama, that of working for greater autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule, has failed. Earlier this month the latest round of discussions between Tibetan envoys and Chinese officials broke down in a stalemate.

A growing number of young exiles favor calling for independence, but such a policy switch would likely see a sharp drop in international support for their cause--and could split the community.

And Beijing  has lost no time in making its views clear. "Our position on Tibet is clear and resolute. Any attempt to separate Tibet from China is doomed to fail," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters Tuesday.

"The so-called Tibetan government-in-exile is not recognized by any government in the world," Qin said.

Mixed views

In interviews, Tibetans in exile and in Tibet supported further talks and called for a more militant approach.

"Those who advocate complete independence often repeat this as their ultimate goal," said a caller named Tenzin, speaking from Dharamsala. "However, I am not hearing any concrete means to achieve their goal."

Non-violence, a course on which most Tibetans appear to agree, precludes war, terrorism, or "secret operations to exert pressure on China," Tenzin said.

"There are only two options, and those are either to talk with the Chinese or to surrender."

A caller from inside Tibet voiced concern that "if things cannot change...Tibetan culture and traditions will fade away, and the Tibetan language will disappear."

"So we Tibetans inside Tibet should be ready to sacrifice our lives," he said. "We should quietly start our own Tibetan youth movement and keep in touch with Tibetan youth outside."

Consultation exercise

Tibet's prime minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche said the exiled government would listen to Tibetan opinion.

"If the majority of the people offer some different way than the present  [Middle Way], then of course we would gladly follow that," Samdhong Rinpoche told reporters.

The Dharamsala meeting is also focusing on the current situation in Tibet, where protests in March against Chinese rule in the capital, Lhasa, erupted into violence that spread to other areas of western China.

Tibet's government in exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in the subsequent regionwide Chinese crackdown. China has meanwhile reported police as having killed just one "insurgent" and blames Tibetan "rioters" for the deaths of 21 people.

While any recommendations emerging from the Dharamsala meeting will require the approval of the Tibetan parliament, they are likely to be highly influential.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

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

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