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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."

China's Tibet Talks May Skirt Demands of Dalai Lama

April 27, 2008

By Janine Zacharia
April 26, 2008

(Bloomberg) -- China's decision to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoy may
defuse pro-Tibet Western protests that threaten to disrupt the Beijing
Olympics in August. It's unlikely to lead to more freedom in a territory
that has chafed under China's authoritarian rule for decades.

``The real danger is that it is just a stalling tactic that will allow
critics like the French to back down,'' said Walter Lohman, director of
the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Chinese leaders ``get through the Olympics, and dialogue ends.''

Dozens of people may have been killed in Tibet's capital Lhasa last
month, in what Tibetans said was a crackdown by Chinese security forces
and what China described as rioting fomented by the Dalai Lama.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said April 24 he had told Chinese
President Hu Jintao that he was ``shocked by what happened in Tibet''
and urged Chinese authorities to give more autonomy to the region. The
U.S. has made less specific demands of China, saying Tibetans' religious
freedom must be respected.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government- in-exile,
said after the Chinese announcement on talks that ``for any meeting to
be productive,'' China's leadership must ``acknowledge the positive role
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama'' and avoid a ``vilification campaign.''

`Contact and Consultation'

China offered few details of the planned encounter. An unidentified
official quoted by the Chinese state-run news service Xinhua said ``the
relevant department of the central government will have contact and
consultation with Dalai's private representative in the coming days.''

The U.S. and European governments, which have repeatedly called for
talks between the two sides, welcomed the decision.

``The resumption of dialogue brings some real hope,'' Sarkozy said in a
statement.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that the U.S. is ``hopeful that
this will be a new direction in their relationship.''

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso sounded a similar theme.

``We can't expect a breakthrough immediately, but I think we should
encourage this kind of dialogue because it's progress compared with the
situation some few weeks ago,'' he said after meeting Chinese President
Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing.

Access to Tibet

Barroso, who is visiting China to boost trade and cooperate on dealing
with climate change, said he urged China's leadership to allow free
access to Tibet for foreign visitors and overseas journalists.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who saw relations with China sour last
year after greeting the Dalai Lama in Berlin, struck a more upbeat note.
China's offer to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoy ``can mark an
important step toward defusing the situation,'' Merkel told Germany's
weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag in an interview.

The last discussions between representatives of China and the Tibetan
government-in-exile took place in July 2007. The Dalai Lama fled to
India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Beijing's rule.

``The Chinese authorities understand that the world is watching,'' said
Joseph Cheng, a professor of politics at City University of Hong Kong.
``It will certainly help to defuse a lot of criticism of China.'' He
said the danger is that China will treat the talks as a public-relations
exercise.

U.S. Priorities

The U.S. has asked China to reach out to the Dalai Lama, while also
saying the dispute over Tibet shouldn't wreck a developing strategic
relationship.

``We engage China as a growing economic powerhouse, as a nuclear,
permanent-five member of the United Nations Security Council, and an
increasingly important actor on the international scene,'' Deputy
Secretary of State John Negroponte told U.S. lawmakers on April 23. ``At
the same time, we have serious concerns about the recent events, human
rights conditions and limits on religious freedom in Tibet.''

Lhasa, where the Dalai Lama's residence, Potala Palace, is located, has
been reopened to Chinese tourists. A group of 15 visitors from the
eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou arrived in Lhasa by train late on April
24, Xinhua said. The territory remains closed to overseas journalists,
except those escorted by government officials.

Chinese police say rioters killed 22 people in the Tibetan capital Lhasa
on March 14 while the Dharamsala-based government says troops have
killed at least 140 protesters since the demonstrations began. China
took control of Tibet in 1951.

To contact the reporters on this story: Janine Zacharia in Washington at
jzacharia@bloomberg.net
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