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Second round of China - Tibet talks planned

May 6, 2008

The New York Times/The Associated Press
May 4, 2008 at 7:50 p.m. ET

SHENZHEN, China (AP) -- China's official Xinhua News Agency is reporting that the Dalai Lama's envoys and Chinese officials plan a second round of talks at an unannounced date.

The report came late Sunday after the two sides met in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. It was the first time they held talks since violent protests erupted in Tibet in March, and China responded with a crackdown on the Himalayan region.

Xinhua did not say when and where the next round of meetings would be held.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SHENZHEN, China (AP) -- The Dalai Lama's envoys met Chinese officials Sunday in the first talks between the two sides since violent anti-government protests erupted in Tibet, bringing international pressure on Beijing ahead of the Summer Olympics.

International critics have accused China of heavy-handed tactics in quelling anti-government riots and protests in Tibet and Tibetan areas of western China that began in March. Some experts believe Beijing agreed to meet with the envoys to ease that criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

The Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader who fled Tibet in 1959 amid a Chinese crackdown, has previously said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.

China's official Xinhua News Agency confirmed the meeting took place ''at the repeated requests made by the Dalai side.'' As the two parties gathered, President Hu Jintao said in Beijing he hoped for a ''positive outcome'' and that the ''door of dialogue remains open,'' Xinhua said.

The Chinese officials, Zhu Weiqun and Sitar, told the envoys that violence in Tibet ''had given rise to new obstacles for further contacts and consultations with the Dalai side'' but the government ''still arranged this meeting with great patience and sincerity,'' Xinhua reported.

''The central government hoped that to create conditions for the next round of contact and consultation, the Dalai side would take credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China, stop plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games,'' Xinhua said.

The Dalai Lama's representatives planned to push for an easing of tensions in Tibetan areas of China and address Beijing's accusations that the spiritual leader has been masterminding the recent unrest, Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India, told a public rally.

China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet's capital of Lhasa in March, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died in the protests and the subsequent rioting and crackdown by the Chinese government.

Beijing claims the Dalai Lama and his supporters organized the riots with the aim of breaking the far western Himalayan region of Tibet away from Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that he was not behind the unrest.

Even as the talks took place, China kept up its verbal attacks on the Dalai Lama.

Xinhua quoted Chinese experts on Tibet as saying the Tibetan Youth Congress, an exile group, was the ''armed spearhead of the 14th Dalai Lama group'' dedicated to separating Tibet from China.

It quoted a researcher from the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Center as saying the Tibetan Youth Congress was behind the March 14 riots.

''We hope the 14th Dalai Lama could truly give up 'Tibet independence,' stop secessionist activities, stop instigating violence, stop disrupting the Beijing Olympics, effectively prevent TYC's violence and denounce its terrorist acts,'' Xinhua quoted Liu Hongji as saying.

The Dalai Lama was represented by Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen. Zhu and Sitar, who goes by one name, are two vice ministers of the United Front Work Department, which deals with influential people in groups outside China's Communist Party.

The meeting's exact location in Shenzhen, a southern boomtown close to Hong Kong, was not announced.

A large group of foreign reporters waited outside a palm tree-lined statehouse compound in suburban Shenzhen that was believed to be the meeting venue. But no sign of the parties was seen.

-- Associated Press writer Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala, India, contributed to this report.
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