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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama tweets to Chinese citizens, chatting about Tibet, China's policies

May 23, 2010

By: CARA ANNA

Associated Press

05/21/10 12:50 PM EDT

BEIJING ╤ The Dalai Lama tried to hold a rare direct conversation with
people inside China on Friday, answering questions live on Twitter about
the fate of long-tense Tibet.

The hourlong session with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader had been
requested by Wang Lixiong, a Chinese writer and convert to Tibetan
Buddhism who lives in Beijing. The two met for Friday's online
conversation in a hotel room in New York, where the Dalai Lama is visiting.

Through a Chinese interpreter, the Dalai Lama tweeted messages of
criticism about the Chinese government's policies in Tibet and words of
welcome to Chinese citizens.

"The government made these tensions, not the people," he said.

It wasn't clear how many people inside China were reading his comments.
Twitter is blocked in China, but the service has become popular with
thousands of Chinese, especially activists, who find a way around
controls. Wang's Twitter feed, where the conversation was posted, had
more than 8,000 followers as of Friday night.

Peking University professor and media critic Hu Yong tweeted that he was
struck by the Dalai Lama's comment that "Stability comes from the heart."

The Dalai Lama remains a highly sensitive person for China, which
objected strongly when President Barack Obama personally welcomed him to
the White House in February.

China maintains that Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries,
but many Tibetans say the region was functionally independent for much
of its history and consider the Dalai Lama their rightful leader. He
fled 51 years ago and lives in India.

China's government says the Dalai Lama seeks to destroy the country's
sovereignty by pushing independence for Tibet, but he says he wants some
form of autonomy instead.

While a spokesman for the office of the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Taklha,
confirmed Friday's conversation, it was impossible to tell who posed the
questions selected from almost 300 submitted online.

But it was a start, Wang said.

"For years, there have been only official statements about the issue of
Tibet inside China," Wang said in his open letter to the Dalai Lama on
May 5 requesting the online chat. "No doubt, it's hard for people to
know the truth about Tibet."

Tibetans in China have long complained about restrictions on Buddhism,
government propaganda campaigns against the Dalai Lama, and an influx of
Chinese migrants. Those feelings boiled over in deadly anti-Chinese
riots in 2008 that shocked Beijing's leaders.

The Dalai Lama said Friday the gap between Tibetans and China's majority
Han Chinese "is getting deeper and deeper" and said that in some areas
the Han community has grown so dramatically that "Tibetan culture faces
a great crisis."

Calls to the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which
handles talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama, rang unanswered Friday night.

Wang said more than 1,200 people submitted questions and that the most
popular ones were asked Friday.

More than one of those questions concerned what will happen when the
Dalai Lama dies, and whether the Tibet issue will be resolved before then.

"I've been through many eras ... and I've seen big changes," he
answered. He pointed out that already some retired Chinese government
and Communist Party officials, as well as intellectuals, are saying the
country's ethnic policies are not right and need more reflection.

Blacklisted author Yu Jie tweeted in response, "It's still a small
number, the Dalai Lama is too optimistic."

Talks between China and representatives of the Tibetan government in
exile haven't gone far. In January, Chinese officials told the Dalai
Lama's envoys that Beijing would not make any compromises on its
sovereignty over the Himalayan region and that both sides' views
remained "sharply divided."

The Dalai Lama's representatives said China's warnings came across as
high-handed, but they said they would keep pursuing dialogue with
Beijing despite their differences.

Beijing has refused to discuss the status of Tibet with the emissaries,
saying the Chinese would only address the Dalai Lama's return to China.
He fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against China.

Any question of the Dalai Lama's return to China did not come up in
Friday's conversation.

"I believe not far in the future there will definitely be change and the
problems will be resolved," he said.

(In Chinese) http://twitter.com/wlixiong
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