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Tibetans Reaffirm a Conciliatory Approach to China

November 24, 2008

Altaf Qadri/Associated Press
By EDWARD WONG
The New York Times
November 22, 2008

NEW DELHI, India -- After an intense debate on whether to begin a
formal independence movement, the majority of delegates attending a
conference of Tibetan exiles in northern India recommended Saturday
that the Tibetan government in exile continue to adopt the Dalai
Lama's conciliatory approach to China, a Tibetan spokesman said.

But in a sign of mounting frustration with fruitless negotiations
with China, most delegates also advised the Tibetan government to end
the dialogue until China shows real willingness to negotiate, the
spokesman, Thubten Samphel, said in a telephone interview from
Dharamsala, India.

The delegates made their recommendations at the end of a six-day
conference called by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetans
worldwide, who has pursued a "middle way" approach in which he has
called for China to grant autonomy to its six million Tibetans. The
Dalai Lama has not called for Tibetan independence and prefers to
deal with China without confrontation.

"The majority view is that the middle way approach is the best
approach for now," Mr. Samphel said of the results of the conference.

But the intractability of the Tibetan problem, highlighted by an
uprising of Tibetans last spring and a subsequent Chinese crackdown,
has led more and more Tibetan exiles, especially younger ones, to
lobby the government in exile to start a formal independence
movement. Several prominent exile groups like the Tibetan Youth
Congress already advocate independence. Tibet enjoyed a period of
self-governance early last century until Chinese troops invaded in 1950.

The Dalai Lama said he called the conference in Dharamsala, the seat
of the Tibetan government in exile, so the Tibetan people could
express democratically their opinions on the path forward. The
conference was purely advisory, and the Tibetan Parliament will
likely discuss the recommendations at its next session in March, Mr.
Samphel said.

In the final session on Saturday, he added, "there were also views
expressing support for Tibetan independence."

The Dalai Lama did not take part in the conference, but he spoke
about it to exiles on Sunday. He reaffirmed his faith in the middle
way, Reuters reported, but he said, "My faith is getting thinner in
the Chinese government."

The week before the meeting, which drew 581 delegates, Chinese
officials held a news conference to denounce the Dalai Lama and to
say that China would never make any concessions on the kind of
autonomy he demands.

The Dalai Lama's policies still have much support, though. He is
considered the reincarnation of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva, or god,
of compassion, and he has no peer for spiritual and political
influence over Tibetans. A big question looming over the conference
was who will succeed the Dalai Lama, 73, after he dies.

The Dalai Lama began formal negotiations with the Chinese government
in 2002. Eight rounds of talks have taken place, the last two after
anti-Chinese riots erupted in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in March.
Chinese officials rejected the Dalai Lama's proposal for genuine
autonomy in the eighth round, a proposal that was detailed in a
memorandum. The hard-line stand taken by Beijing has contributed to a
breakdown in the talks.

That position does not appear likely to soften soon. On Friday, an
editorial in the official newspaper, Chinese Tibet Daily, again
accused the Dalai Lama of advocating independence. A translation by
The Associated Press of the editorial said, "The Dalai Lama's
so-called 'middle way' is a naked expression of 'Tibet independence'
aimed at nakedly spreading the despicable plot of opposing the tide
of history."

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