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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

The Way Forward in Tibet

April 23, 2008

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Op-Ed
The Washington Post
April 21, 2008

When I meet with the Dalai Lama today, I fully expect him to reaffirm
his strong commitment to engaging Chinese officials in dialogue.
President Bush has repeatedly expressed his own steadfast support for
dialogue between the Dalai Lama and China's leadership. Meaningful
dialogue presents the only viable way forward.

In March, demonstrations in Lhasa that began peacefully escalated into
violence and quickly spread to other Tibetan areas of China. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed deep concern regarding these
events, has called on all sides to refrain from violence, and has
strongly urged China to exercise restraint in dealing with the
protesters and to respect the fundamental right of all people to
peacefully express their religious and political views.

Underlying these tragic events is China's long-standing repression of
religious, cultural and other freedoms for the Tibetan people,
repression that has been extensively documented in State Department
human rights reports and elsewhere. Since 1949, the cycle of protests
followed by crackdowns has repeated itself several times, but the end
result has always been the same: Control is restored but only
temporarily, while the underlying causes of Tibetan grievances remain
unaddressed.

The recent protests are a manifestation of lingering frustration at a
lack of progress in addressing Tibetans' concerns. These ethnic clashes
have resulted in fatalities of Tibetans and Han Chinese and in
widespread arrests. The best way for China's leaders to address Tibetan
concerns is to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, who has advocated
a "middle way" that embraces autonomy for Tibet within China and rejects
seeking independence. The Dalai Lama is the only person with the
influence and credibility to persuade Tibetans to eschew violence and
accept a genuine autonomy within China that would also preserve Tibetan
culture and identity.

The U.S. government believes there is a basis for dialogue between the
Dalai Lama and China's leadership. The Dalai Lama has met the
preconditions for dialogue called for by China: He does not advocate
independence for Tibet; he does not engage in or advocate separatist
activities; and he recognizes that Tibet is part of China. The Dalai
Lama has publicly come out strongly against the violence that erupted
recently in Lhasa and other areas. He even took the extraordinary step
of offering his resignation if necessary to convince all parties of his
nonviolent approach to reaching resolution. And he has indicated his
support for holding the Olympic Games in Beijing. The United States has
honored the Dalai Lama as a man of peace and a lifelong advocate of
nonviolence by awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal last October.

When the Chinese government uses harsh rhetoric against the Dalai Lama,
or steps up "patriotic education campaigns" that include forced
denunciations of the Dalai Lama, it serves only to further enflame
tensions. Some in China, however, have taken a stand against such
tactics. In an unprecedented move, prominent Chinese intellectuals are
circulating a petition that calls on the Chinese government to end its
"one-sided" propaganda campaign and initiate direct dialogue with the
Dalai Lama.

Since 2002, the Dalai Lama's representatives have conducted six rounds
of talks with Chinese officials, in a major departure from the previous
20 years of nonengagement. These discussions, while substantive, have
not yet produced concrete results. If continued in good faith, this
dialogue could build trust and provide the long-term basis for political
and economic stability in Tibet. As Secretary Rice has noted, while
Beijing has missed opportunities to engage the Dalai Lama directly,
there is still hope, and it is not too late to do so.

In addition to engaging in meaningful dialogue, China should immediately
cease the repressive measures directed at Tibetans seeking to practice
their religion and preserve their cultural identity, and should release
those detained for peacefully protesting or expressing their views.
Although the Chinese government recently arranged official trips to
Lhasa for journalists and diplomats, we continue to call for unfettered
access for all media and foreign diplomats into Tibetan areas.

We hope that the current generation of Chinese leaders -- who have shown
that they can pursue enlightened economic policies and who aspire to
make China a respected global and regional stakeholder -- recognize that
the resumption of a serious and direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama
offers the best hope for resolving long-standing problems and achieving
worthy goals in Tibet.
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