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China Agrees to More Talks on Tibet

July 4, 2008

By JIM YARDLEY
The New York Times
July 4, 2008

BEIJING -- China agreed Thursday to hold another round of discussions
before the end of the year with envoys of the Dalai Lama, but
government officials declined to say if the two sides made progress
after a round of secret negotiations that ended this week.

Tibetan envoys left Beijing on Thursday after two days of private
meetings and planned to brief the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India,
home of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

"I'm told that they will return to Dharamsala tomorrow," said Thubten
Samphel, a spokesman for the government-in-exile. "I really don't
have any information."

The outcome of this week's talks has taken on international
significance in the aftermath of the Tibetan riots in Lhasa, the
capital of Tibet, and parts of western China last March. The United
States and many European countries have called on China to engage in
direct discussions with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual
leader. Earlier this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised
hopes for a possible breakthrough.

On Thursday afternoon, China's official news agency, Xinhua,
confirmed the latest round of talks and quoted unnamed officials as
saying there had been an agreement for more discussions by years end
"if the Dalai Lama made positive moves."

Xinhua offered no specifics about the talks this week, though it
noted that the two senior envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen,
had toured the Olympic stadiums in Beijing and met with local Tibet
specialists.

The Chinese delegation was led by Du Qinglin, head of the United
Front Work Department, the Communist Party organization that plays a
lead role in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Xinhua article seemed
less strident in tone than other recent state media reports, which
have continued to demonize the Dalai Lama — even as China has
promised to meet with his representatives in good faith.

China and the Dalai Lama began a series of talks in 2002 that broke
off last year without any progress. This spring, China agreed to
resume the talks after international condemnation of its handling of
the Tibetan riots. Human rights groups and pro-Tibet advocacy groups
have called on world leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the
Beijing Olympics in August. Mr. Sarkozy has said he will decide
whether to attend next week.

But the international pressure has diminished sharply since the May
12 earthquake in Sichuan Province brought China a worldwide
outpouring of concern. Some analysts have questioned whether China
agreed to renew the talks with the Dalai Lama primarily as a public
relations tactic before the Games.

The two sides have longstanding differences over the political status
of Tibet and on what terms the Dalai Lama would be allowed to return.
China has accused the Dalai Lama and his followers of masterminding
the March riots in order to seek independence for Tibet, an
accusation he has denied.

He has criticized China's policies in Tibetan areas but said he wants
genuine autonomy for Tibet inside China rather than independence.
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