Dalai Lama's Envoys Heading to China
Saturday, May 3, 2008
BEIJING, May 3 -- Representatives of the Dalai Lama are scheduled to arrive in China on Saturday to begin informal talks with their Chinese counterparts on the unrest in Tibet.
The meetings will be the first face-to-face contact between the two sides since talks broke off last summer. Protests in March against Chinese rule in Tibet swelled into a violent uprising, including a deadly riot in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 14.
"The envoys will raise the issue of the current crisis in all of the Tibetan areas," said Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India. They will also convey "deep concern over how Chinese leaders handled the crisis and offer suggestions for how peace can be reestablished in the region."
Samphel said the talks will not be the opening of formal negotiations, but rather an attempt to see if there is a basis for a meaningful dialogue that could resolve key issues underpinning the decades-long tensions between Tibetans and Beijing. The representatives, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, plan to stay for three days.
After intense international pressure to open a dialogue, Chinese officials said April 25 that they would establish contact with the Dalai Lama's envoys, but have said little else about possible talks.
Instead, official media have continued an unrelenting campaign of vilifying the Tibetan spiritual leader, who is honored in the West as a man of peace but is accused by Beijing of inciting violence to try to divide the country and sabotage the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
State-run Tibet Daily on Saturday accused the Dalai Lama and his followers of a "litany of crimes," including the Lhasa riot. "The Dalai clique launched a bloody violent event -- their last bout of madness," the paper's Web site said.
Samphel dismissed the attacks, saying that the Tibetan people "have total trust" in the Dalai Lama and that he has always urged that protests be peaceful. "The very hard-line Chinese policies implemented in Tibet have brought people to protest," Samphel said.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed attempt to push the Chinese out of Tibet. China's policies, which the Dalai Lama says threaten "cultural genocide" by denying Tibetans freedom of religion and traditional practices, are praised within China for modernizing the region, which has enjoyed strong economic growth.
The two sides in recent years engaged in six rounds of talks, which ended last summer, without progress on key issues, including whether the Dalai Lama can ever return to Tibet and what a new Tibetan autonomous region within China would look like.
The informal discussions come as a team of 50 Olympic torchbearers and support staff were nearing the summit of Mount Everest in Tibet, the most controversial leg of the global torch relay. News from the mountain has been tightly controlled and the small group of journalists accompanying the journey was not told exactly how close the climbers were to the summit.