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No Chinese response to memo on Tibet's autonomy

January 18, 2009

International Herald Tribune
Saturday, January 17, 2009
NEW DELHI: The Tibetan government-in-exile said Saturday it has yet to receive a Chinese response to its request for autonomy presented by the Dalai Lama's envoys in a memo two months ago.
Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the government-in-exile, called the Chinese response "very funny" because they are "going around in Europe and America explaining their views" on the open memo.
Rinpoche was at an interfaith meeting in the Indian capital New Delhi, which was also attended by the Dalai Lama.
The memo — which was submitted by the Dalai Lama's envoys during a meeting with Chinese officials in November — said Tibet does not seek independence, but wants meaningful autonomy to ensure the survival of the region's unique Buddhist culture.
"(Autonomy) is intended to ensure the protection of the culture and the identity of minority nationalities by powering them to become masters of their own affairs," the memo said.
A telephone call to the Chinese Foreign Ministry seeking comment on Saturday went unanswered.
Critics and rights groups say an influx of majority Han Chinese to Tibet combined with Beijing's tight restrictions on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism are eroding the people's identity.
Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the Chinese United Front Work Department, described the autonomy request in November as an attempt to undermine Beijing's authority in the region.
The Dalai Lama — who fled to India amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 — said his government-in-exile's contact with Chinese officials was becoming difficult, adding that his faith toward them "is now becoming thinner and thinner."
"China is no longer a communist country," Tibet's spiritual leader said. "It has become a communist and dictatorial capitalist — a big change."
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