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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetans Seek a Way out of Impasse

January 24, 2010

Tibetans seek a way out of impasse
By Saransh Sehgal
Asia Times
January 22, 2010

DHARAMSALA, India -- Beijing, stung by rioting in
Tibet, hardened it stance against the Dalai Lama
last year, convincing United States President
Barack Obama and other Western leaders not to
meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's envoys
haven’t taken place since November 2008, with
each blaming the other for the deadlock after
riots in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet
Autonomous Region, eight months earlier. Stepping
up their rhetoric, Chinese officials called the
Dalai Lama "a wolf in sheep's skin".

The Tibetan government in exile now says it will
sidestep the blame game and seek the earliest resumption of talks.

"The Tibet issue needs to be resolved through
dialogue and negotiation between the Tibetan and
People's Republic of China leadership," Samdhong
Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan
government in exile, told Asia Times Online. "I
wish Tibetans' hopes will become a reality."

The Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan government
in exile who fled the country in 1959 after a
failed uprising against invasion by the People's
Republic of China of Tibet, insists on greater
autonomy for Tibet proper and neighboring areas
with Tibetan inhabitants. Beijing has accused him
of seeking semi-independence for a quarter of China's total territory.

"Everybody has the right to hope for better a
relationship between Dharamsala and Beijing
because the Tibet issue needs to be resolved
through dialogue and negotiation between the
Tibetan and People's Republic of China leadership," Rinpoche said.

He declined to say whether his government would
take any initiative to resume talks with Beijing,
but conceded that envoys of the Dalai Lama "are
in regular contact with their counterparts in
Beijing" as this "falls within their responsibilities".

He didn't say whether any concessions would be
offered to make talks possible with Beijing.

The Dalai Lama, as leader of the government in
exile, continues to campaign for greater autonomy
for Tibet from his base in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

Rinpoche has said the government in exile's
priority in 2010 was to resume talks. He is
optimistic that some progress can be made.

"The dialogue process may hopefully take a new
shape this year," Rinpoche said this month. "I
will not say that I have great expectations, but
I would say that we have hope that some
improvement will come in the process. We only
demand people's support and unity regarding this
issue and hope it will be resolved.

"I do not need to say anything else, whatever is
in progress is going good, and things will be resolved," he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao chaired a politburo
meeting on January 8 on how to maintain
"long-term stability" in Tibet. It remains
unknown whether the top policy-making body has
considered opening talks with the Dalai Lama as a measure to achieve that goal.

With the Tibetan people revering the Dalai Lama
as the "Living Buddha", Beijing's portrayal of
him as an enemy will hardly help keep the
Himalayan region stable. China shows signs of a
softer stance, with unconfirmed reports claiming
the authorities in some Tibetan areas have turned
a blind eye to residents displaying pictures their spiritual leader.

Talking to Asia Times Online, Thubten Samphel, a
spokesperson for the Tibetan government in exile,
said it was high time for Chinese leaders to talk
with the Dalai Lama's envoys. The government in
exile will adopt a new approach to gain the
support of as many Chinese people as possible for its cause.

Asia Times Online: Do Tibetan exiles hope for
better relations with China in 2010?

Thubten Samphel: This is what we sincerely want -
better relations, we have no option other than
that. While there is very little improvement yet, we hope for better in future.

ATol: What new efforts will the exiled government
make to achieve the resumption of talks with Beijing?

TS: We will maintain what we have been doing. One
new effort is to approach as many Chinese people
as possible to spread our message. Our struggle
is not anti-China or anti-Chinese. It is for the
interests of us Tibetan people. If we can
persuade one Chinese person, this will have a
multiplying effect in the Chinese community, so
that they could have a better understanding of
our cause and become more sympathetic.

Many Tibetans in exile living in Dharamsala seem
to support their government's renewed efforts to
seek an early resumption of talks with Beijing.

"I think the majority of the Tibetan people
sincerely hope that the Chinese leaders will
understand and realize the crucial importance of
resolving the issue of Tibet by discussing the
overall issue, the important issues with the
envoys of his Holiness the Dalai Lama." said Tenzin Pema.

"We sincerely hope that His Holiness the Dalai
Lama will live 100 more years [he is 75] and that
he will continue to work for the welfare of
Tibetan people and we continue to pray that Tibet
will be free soon and that peace will once again
reign in the land of snows," said Pema.

The March 14, 2008, riots in Lhasa followed
street demonstrations on the March 10 Tibetan
uprising anniversary. Asked how the Tibetan
government in exile planned to mark the uprising
this year, Samphel said it would be much the same
as before, with the Dalai Lama delivering an address.

Some non-governmental organizations and groups
supporting Free Tibet were expected to make the
day as big as they could, but the exiled
government would not encourage anything radical or violent, Samphel said.

Keeping a distance from radical groups, Samphel
said the riots in Lhasa two years ago were a sad
story but "we have behaved ourselves better than other refugee communities".

Defying the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way", a number
of radical exiled Tibetan groups - such as
Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Uprising
Organization, the National Democratic Party of
Tibet and the Students for a Free Tibet - plan to
take every opportunity to lodge protests against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Besides the March 10 Tibetan uprising day, the
Dalai Lama's birthday on July 6, the September 2
Tibetan Democracy Day and the December 10
International Human Rights Day are ripe for protests.

In Dharamsala, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC),
one of the largest groups advocating full
independence of Tibet, says it will launch
protests in India and other places across the world.

"We do not feel any frustration, it's a fight for
a nation and we are strengthened, the Free Tibet
movement will continue to inspire the younger
generations," TYC president Tsewang Rigzin said.
As to whether protests would occur inside Tibet,
Rigzin said, "Who knows?" What happened in Lhasa
two years ago was now history to inspire generations to come, he said.

Other demonstrations urging Beijing to resume
talks with the Dalai Lama include the Together
for Tibet, planned for Brussels on October 10,
when Tibetan exiles and support groups will gather to support Free Tibet.

Lobsang Wangyal, the event’s director, said it
aimed to tell the world that Tibet was not
forgotten. It would not be an anti-China
demonstration, but a platform to tell the Chinese
government it should listen to the Tibetans and
respect their feelings and aspirations, Wangyal told Asia Times Online.

"The Tibetan issue is like a pebble in the
Chinese government's shoe, the longer they ignore
it the more it will irritate," Wangyal said.

Phuntsok Wangchuk, general secretary of GuChuSum
- a group of ex-political prisoners inside Tibet
and new Tibetan exiles - said, "We are planning a
meeting with other non-governmental organizations
in the region on what direction the new protests
should take." They definitely would continue to
include hunger strikes until "Beijing resumes talks," Wangchuk said.

Exiles believe the time right to think out of the
box with new strategies to break the political
stalemate and eventually come to a common ground through talks and dialogue.

"I am optimistic," the Dalai Lama said earlier
when asked about achieving autonomy for Tibet
through negotiations with Beijing.

-- Saransh Sehgal is a contributor based in
Dharamsala, India, who can be reached at info@mcllo.com .
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