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Tibetan envoys, Chinese officials to resume talks

July 2, 2008

The Associated Press
June 30, 2008

BEIJING (AP) -- Representatives of the Dalai Lama headed to Beijing
on Monday for the first formal talks with Chinese officials in a
year, the Tibetan government-in-exile said.

Envoys Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen will hold two days of talks
beginning Tuesday in China's capital, said Samdhong Rimpoche, the
prime minister of the self-declared government in exile.

"This will be the continuation of the formal dialogue which started
in 2002," Rimpoche said in Dharmsala, the north Indian city which is
home to the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and the government-in-exile.

The meetings follow closed-door, informal talks May 4 in the southern
Chinese city of Shenzhen. The talks ended with an offer from Beijing
for future discussions, but yielded scant other concrete results.

The Dalai Lama's envoys have attended several rounds of talks with
China since 2002. Specific details of those discussions have not been
released, but they are believed to have focused on the Dalai Lama's
demands for more autonomy.

China has been blamed for using excessive force in quelling
anti-government riots and protests in Tibet that began in March. Some
experts believe Beijing is agreeing to a fresh round of discussions
to ease international pressure and criticism ahead of the Olympic
Games that begin Aug. 8 in China.

"Many Tibetans put a great weight on news of these talks and there's
some evidence that people inside Tibet will be generally reluctant to
stage protests when there is still hope in this process," said Robbie
Barnett, an expert in modern Tibet at Columbia University.

The Dalai Lama's office issued a news release welcoming the talks.

"His holiness the Dalai Lama has instructed the envoys to make every
effort to bring about tangible progress to alleviate the difficult
situation for Tibetans in their homeland," the statement said.

The Dalai Lama hoped the talks "will contribute in resolving the long
simmering issue through dialogue in the interest of stability, unity
and harmony of all nationalities in the People's Republic of China,"
the statement said.

China has ruled Tibet since its troops entered the region in the
1950s and claims the Himalayan region has been its territory for
centuries. Many Tibetans, however, say their homeland was essentially
independent for much of that time.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has
said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to
freely practice their culture, language and religion, but the Chinese
government labels him a "splittist" intent on seizing independence.

Associated Press writer Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala, India,
contributed to this report.
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