• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Dalai Lama's talks with China bring optimism

Dalai Lama revered by Tibetans
May 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile expressed optimism about upcoming talks with Chinese officials, but cautioned Saturday not to expect too much from the first meeting between the two sides since violent anti-government protests erupted in Tibet. Talks were scheduled to begin Sunday and last for a day or two in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which neighbors Hong Kong, said Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India.

"We are positive that something good will come out of it," Rinpoche told The Associated Press.

Two of the Dalai Lama's representatives planned to push for peace in Tibetan areas of China and address Beijing's accusations that the spiritual leader has been masterminding the recent unrest, he told a public rally in Dharmsala.

But Rinpoche added afterward: "Our hopes are high, but this is just a small step in a long process."

China's official Xinhua News Agency confirmed that two senior Communist Party officials would meet the Tibetan envoys on Sunday. The brief Xinhua report did not say where the officials would meet for what it called "contacts and consultations."

The Tibetan government-in-exile has called the meetings "informal talks with representatives of the Chinese leadership."

Thubten Samphal, a spokesman for the exiled government, has said talks would not be formal because "we cannot do business as usual when the situation in Tibet is so grave."

China has been accused of heavy-handed tactics in quelling protests in Tibet and other Tibetan areas of western China. Some experts believe Beijing agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoys to ease international criticism ahead of the Olympics, which begin in August.

China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet's capital of Lhasa in March, while overseas Tibetan supporters say many times that number have been killed in protests and the security crackdown.

Before the meeting, China's entirely state-run media ratcheted up its attacks against the Dalai Lama. Two articles published Saturday repeated Beijing's argument that the Dalai Lama and his supporters organized the riots with the aim of breaking the far western Himalayan region of Tibet away from Chinese rule.

"The hope of realizing Tibetan independence by the Dalai clique has become more and more dim. When their hopes shattered, the Dalai clique launched bloody violence; this was their last act of madness," the Tibet Daily said.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet amid a failed uprising in 1959, says he is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from Chinese rule. He has decried "cultural genocide" in his homeland, which has a unique Buddhist tradition distinct from the rest of China.

The Dalai Lama is deeply revered by Tibetans. Men in that position have traditionally been regarded as both the spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhists.

A front-page story in the overseas edition of People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, denied the Tibetan issue was related to religion, saying "the religious issue is a card played by the Dalai clique for gaining the sympathy from some people."

While the security presence in Lhasa has generally decreased, large numbers of troops continue to fill hotels, courtyards, government buildings and camps in and around the city, two foreigners living in Tibet said in written accounts given to the AP in recent days.

The square outside Lhasa's main temple - a focal point for the March protests and rioting - remains closed and under heavy guard, according to the foreigners, who requested anonymity for fear that the government would deport them.

City officials are apparently readying Lhasa to host the Olympic torch, which is scheduled to stop there June 20-21. The foreigners said workers were repairing roadways that had been blackened by cars burned in the riots and were replacing sidewalks where stones were ripped out by rioters and thrown at shops and people.

The Dalai Lama's envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, will meet with two vice ministers of the United Front Work Department, Zhu Weiqun and Sita, Xinhua said.

The department is designed to deal with influential people in groups outside of China's Communist Party and sway them into taking the party's side. Sita is one of the party's highest-ranking Tibetans.

The United Front Work Department hosted earlier meetings between the two sides. China and representatives of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile held six rounds of inconclusive talks that foundered in 2006.

The department has an unlisted phone number and could therefore not be contacted for comment. No other Chinese officials were available for comment Saturday, a national holiday in China.

 

Click here for more headlines from ABC7 Eyewitness News


Load Comments