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Envoy says Tibetans want trouble-free Olympics

July 25, 2008

By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
Guardian/Reuters
July 23, 2008

WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - A Beijing Olympics that goes smoothly
without "unhealthy disturbances" will best serve Tibetans by
fostering a more confident China, said the chief envoy of the exiled
Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama.

Lodi Gyari said the Dalai Lama, believing the Olympics would have a
positive impact on Chinese society, had endorsed holding the games in
China before Beijing was selected in 2001.

"We would like them to be a success, not so much for the political
leadership of China, but for China as a nation and Chinese as a
people, because it is very important that she gets the needed
international recognition and self-confidence," Gyari said in recent
interview in Washington.

Human rights activists have criticized plans by Western leaders such
U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Nicholas Sarkozy
to attend the Olympics. But their presence in Beijing could be
helpful, said Gyari.

"We are not at all opposed to international leaders participating,
because it is important that the Chinese people feel that they are
being honored, that there are global leaders there to celebrate
together their coming of age," he said.

After the most recent round of Tibet-China talks on July 1 and 2 in
Beijing, Gyari told the media at the Dalai Lama's base in India he
was concerned the Chinese were not serious about engaging Tibetans
and were merely stalling for time to ease international pressure
before the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising
against Chinese rule that was imposed by military force earlier that
decade, wants autonomy for the Himalayan region within China. Beijing
has labeled the Dalai Lama a separatist whose terms amount to a bid
for independence.

SCAPEGOATING RISK

Gyari said in a Reuters interview that Chinese arrogance stemming
from insecurity was "the biggest stumbling block" in Tibetan-Chinese relations.

"There is always that arrogance -- not arrogance at the personal
level -- but institutional arrogance," said Gyari.

"China is a powerful nation and is becoming even more powerful
economically and politically, but when it comes to issues like Tibet,
they are so insecure," he added.

That attitude colors statements by Chinese officials portraying
Tibetans as desperate for talks and repeating demands the Dalai Lama
has already accepted, he said.

China blames a "Dalai Lama clique" for riots in Tibet in March and
subsequent protests that disrupted the Olympic torch relay in several
countries. The Dalai Lama denounced that violence and has appealed to
Tibetans not to protest during the Beijing Games.

The spring protests, which drew a harsh and still deepening crackdown
across the Tibetan plateau, underscore why the Tibetans "certainly
don't want any unhealthy disturbances" during the Olympics, Gyari said.

"If any disturbances happen, particularly if disturbances happen that
have a kind of Tibet connection, it will give the Chinese authorities
yet another opportunity to look for a scapegoat," he said. (Editing
by Peter Cooney)
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