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Hu Hopes Tibet Talks Have 'Positive' Result

May 6, 2008

Dalai Lama's Envoys Meet Chinese Aides
By Maureen Fan
The Washington Post Foreign Service
May 5, 2008; A12

BEIJING, May 4 -- President Hu Jintao said he hoped talks between China and representatives of the Dalai Lama would have a "positive outcome" as the two sides met Sunday at a state guesthouse in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The discussions are not formal negotiations but an attempt to ease tensions after a Chinese crackdown following deadly riots in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in March and widespread unrest in other Tibetan-populated areas of China. China's response to the unrest has drawn protests, criticism from world leaders and threats to boycott the opening ceremony of the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"I hope that the contacts with the Dalai Lama's side from today will yield a positive outcome," Hu said in an interview Sunday with Japanese reporters in Beijing before a trip to Japan, according to the Kyodo and New China News agencies. "The door of dialogue remains open," Hu said, adding in an allusion to the Tibetan spiritual leader that a person should be judged by deeds as well as words.

A spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, had no update on the talks, which officials expect to last two or three days. They are the first face-to-face meetings between the two sides since ongoing talks ended last summer.

"We welcome the opportunity to go there," said Tenzin Takhla, secretary to the Dalai Lama. "What comes out of this will depend a lot on what the Chinese have to say. We'll have to see whether they are serious about wanting to address the grievances of the Tibetan people."

China has come under intense pressure from world leaders to resume talks with the Dalai Lama, whom it considers a separatist. But Beijing officials are loath to be seen as weak or caving in to foreign demands.

State media reports, including Sunday's issues of the People's Daily and the Tibet Daily, continued to describe the exiled spiritual leader as pushing for independence for Tibet, even though he has said he wants only meaningful autonomy.

The Dalai Lama's representatives in Washington, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, and in Switzerland, Kelsang Gyaltsen, arrived in China on Saturday, according to the New China News Agency. On the Chinese side are Zhu Weiqun and Sitar, vice ministers of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, which seeks to keep religious leaders and ethnic minorities in line with official rules.

"It's important to mention that this is not necessarily the opening of formal negotiations," said Kate Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet. "It's really an attempt to see if there's a basis for meaningful dialogue that could resolve some of the key and very urgent issues, such as the crisis in Tibet now."
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