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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama aides in talks with China over Tibet crisis

May 6, 2008

By Clifford Coonan, China Correspondent
The Independent (UK)
May 5, 2008

Chinese Communist Party cadres and envoys of the Dalai Lama held landmark talks yesterday on resolving the Tibetan crisis, even as the national media continued to condemn the exiled Buddhist leader, raising the question of whether the meeting was just a public relations stunt to soothe international concerns ahead of the Olympics.

President Hu Jintao weighed in with a message of support for the negotiations, a sign they may be more than window-dressing to calm international anger over Beijing's crackdown on Tibetan protests in March. According to the official news agency Xinhua, the talks ended with a deal to hold more talks.

But the anti-Dalai Lama stories keep coming, showing just how tough finding agreement is going to be. The Tibet daily newspaper branded the Dalai Lama, who fled his mountain homeland to India after a failed uprising in 1959, as a criminal and a "splittist". Beijing accuses him of masterminding violent attacks on Han Chinese during independence protests in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas. "Patriotic people of Tibet strongly condemn and vehemently denounce the litany of crimes committed by the 14th Dalai Lama and his followers," thundered the newspaper. China bowed to international pressure to reopen channels of dialogue with the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner because the outcry threatens to undermine the Beijing Olympics, which are less than 100 days away.

The Chinese want the Olympics to be their big coming-out party to mark their emergence on the world stage, but threats to boycott the opening ceremony on 8 August and international protests about China's attitude to Tibet and its human rights record that have disrupted the Olympic torch relay, have rattled nerves in the central government.

The official government line on Tibet, and the view held among every Chinese person you meet, is that "Tibet is, was and always will be part of China." Against that kind of backdrop, and in a context of widespread revulsion at the attacks on ethnic Han Chinese during the Lhasa riots, it's difficult to see how much room there is for concessions by Beijing on the issue of greater autonomy for Tibet.

While the Chinese accuse the Dalai Lama and his "clique" of being "dangerous splittists" who want to wrest the Himalayan region away from the motherland, the Dalai Lama says he wants to peacefully achieve more autonomy and an end to "cultural genocide" in his homeland.

The Chinese envoys were cautious after the meeting, which had only been arranged "at the repeated requests made by the Dalai side for resuming talks," Xinhua news agency reported. The riots in Lhasa had "given rise to new obstacles for resuming contacts and consultations with the Dalai side," was Beijing's line.

The most powerful indication that Beijing wants the talks to succeed came from President Hu, who hoped the talks would yield "positive results". "Our policy toward the Dalai Lama is clear and consistent, and the door for dialogue remains open," Hu said, adding that he hoped the Dalai Lama and his followers would "show through action that they have stopped separatist activities."
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