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Tibetan exiles end meeting, want tougher stance with China (Roundup)

November 24, 2008

Asia-Pacific News
November 22, 2008

New Delhi - Tibetan exiles ended a meeting in the northern Indian
town of Dharamsala on Saturday, agreeing that a tougher stand should
be taken in negotiations with China, officials and delegates
attending the meeting said.

A little over 600 Tibetan exiles attended the six-day meeting in
Dharamsala, which saw intense discussions on whether there should be
a shift of policy to advocate independence. Many representatives of
the younger generation advocate such a move.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, had called for the special
meeting after admitting in October that his 'middle way'' policy of
securing greater autonomy for Tibetans within China had failed.

The Dalai Lama's representatives have held eight rounds of talks with
the Chinese government on autonomy since 2002 but reported little progress.

But there were many opposed to dropping the middle way. They said
that the move could result in a loss of international support.

'We will continue with the middle way approach. If there is no
progress within a short period we will consider other options,
including independence,' Karma Choephel, speaker of the Tibetan
parliament-in-exile, was quoted as saying in his address to the
concluding session.

A final resolution of the meeting is likely to set out the conditions
for future talks with China, the IANS news agency reported, quoting
sources in the government-in-exile. Those conditions include: having
an independent observer at negotiations; the release of Tibetan
political prisoners; and issuance of a joint statement after each
negotiation round.

The resolution is also likely to suggest more intense lobbying with
the United Nations and other world bodies and better organization of
the Tibetan community worldwide to counter Chinese propaganda, IANS reported.

Delegates apparently suggested that more efforts should be made to
reach out to Chinese people to counter alleged misinformation spread
by Chinese authorities. The special meeting, after an introductory
session on Monday, divided into sub-committees for a week of
discussions. All 15 subcommittees had submitted their
recommendations, which were to be made public Sunday, Choephel said.

The Dalai Lama, who stayed away from the meeting, saying he did not
want to influence discussions, is expected to brief the media on
Sunday. But one of his aides said the briefing would largely relate
to administrative matters.

'Everyone was determined to continue with the freedom struggle -
though in different ways,' said Youdon Aukatsang, a member of the
Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

She said most delegates wanted a stronger stance toward China if the
dialogue progressed. One demand would be deadlines.

'They discussed everything under the sun and it was acknowledged that
the middle way should be pursued for now, though some did clamour for
independence,' an aide to the Dalai Lama said.

'In they end they all united behind the Dalai Lama and said they had
full faith in him and it was not his fault that talks had failed so
far. They reposed their trust in him so that he could decide how to
move forward,' the aide said.

The issue of a successor to the Dalai Lama was also reportedly
discussed in the sub-committees. The 73-year-old monk suffered a bout
of ill health and underwent surgery earlier in 2008.

'The meeting was a democratic exercise. It indicates a transition.
the voices of all sections were heard,' Tenzin Choeding, a youth leader said.

Younger Tibetans had earlier expressed frustration in having to tone
down their protests in the days leading up to the Beijing Olympics.
Many of them were invited to attend the special meeting.

'A lot of young Tibetans, specially from the west, were pleasantly
surprised by the way their views were listened to. Everyone was equal
in the discussions,' the Dalai Lama's aide said.

The northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala is the headquarters of
the Dalai Lama, who fled to India with his followers in 1959, and the
Tibetan government-in-exile. The government is not recognized by any nation.

There are more than 100,000 Tibetans living in exile, mostly in India
and Nepal, while 6 million live in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and
adjoining areas of China.
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