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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Tibetan envoys in Beijing as China revamps policy

January 28, 2010

By Lucy Hornby and Ralph Jennings
January 26, 2010

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Envoys from the Tibetan
government in exile arrived in China on Tuesday
for open-ended talks, a week after Chinese
authorities laid out a new policy approach that
for the first time includes all Tibetan regions.

China's fifth work conference on Tibet includes
all Tibetan regions under the same policy
umbrella and will set targets for accelerated
development and better social services.

The new integrated framework and relatively
relaxed rhetoric before the envoys' visit may
stem from a policy review triggered by
demonstrations in nearly every town across the
Tibetan plateau in March 2008, the extent of which surprised Beijing.

If successful, the talks and the new policy could
signal a mild thaw in Beijing's relations with
Tibetans, an ethnically, religiously and
linguistically distinct people who often chafe
under Chinese rule. They could also provide a
model for relations with Muslim Uighurs, who
rioted in western Xinjiang last summer.

"You can't say there will be a deal, but you can
say a better understanding," said Khedroob
Thondup, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

Beijing may also hope to ease tensions ahead of
an expected meeting between U.S. President Barack
Obama and the Dalai Lama, who China blames for the 2008 demonstrations.

Senior Chinese leaders pledged to "leap-frog"
development of Tibet by improving infrastructure
and lifting rural incomes to national levels by
2020, helping to address resentment by Tibetans
left behind by China's economic boom.

"This time we are really focusing on improving
livelihood, whereas previous policies were mostly
concerned with industry and infrastructure," said
Luorong Zhandui, a specialist in development
economics at the China Tibetology Research Center.

"Without human capacity, Tibet will always fall
behind and need others to take care of it," said
Luorong, who did not attend the forum but advised
the government to include all Tibetan areas in its policy deliberations.

Taxes from Chinese firms operating in Tibetan
areas will also flow to local governments, rather
than to headquarters elsewhere in China, and the
centre will help fund better health and education
in all Tibetan areas, Luorong said.


One of the big unknowns under the new policy is
how much control over religious life will be relaxed, if at all.

China tightened control over Tibetan
intellectuals, musicians and monasteries in the
months after the demonstrations, detaining
thousands, according to Tibetans in China and exile estimates.

Still, travellers to Tibetan areas of Sichuan
province in recent months say Tibetans once again
openly display photos of the exiled Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader.

Although China officially scorned Tibetan
proposals for greater autonomy encompassing all
Tibetan areas at the last round of talks, it
recently asked for more details on the proposal,
said Robbie Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University.

"The Chinese government's stance on Dalai Lama is
consistent and clear," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

"We hope the Dalai Lama's side will cherish the
opportunity and respond positively to the central government's requirements."

Fruitful talks may lead to a compromise where the
Dalai Lama gives up pushing for greater autonomy
in Tibetan regions in exchange for more religious
freedom, said Lin Chong-pin, strategic studies
professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

"Beijing feels more confident," Lin said.
"There's some light down the tunnel for Beijing-Dalai Lama relations."

Talks began in 2002 but broke down amid acrimony
in 2008. This round has no set agenda, and could continue into next week.

"The bottom line of these talks is that people
inside Tibet have to be happy," said Tenzin
Taklha, an aide of the Dalai Lama. "The most
important thing is that the Chinese side have to
be realistic and to understand that there is a
problem inside Tibet, in order to bring about
long-lasting peace and stability."

(Additional reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee in
NEW DELHI; Editing by Paul Tait)
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