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Tibetans frustrated by China talks

November 18, 2008

By Amy Yee in Dharamsala
The Financial Times
November 17 2008

Envoys of the Dalai Lama have rejected Beijing's accusations that
Tibetans are trying to break away from China and expressed deep
frustration about recent talks with their Chinese counterparts.

"Our biggest disappointment is the total lack of willingness to
seriously reciprocate our very sincere efforts," said Lodi Gyari,
special envoy of the Dalai Lama, at a press conference yesterday in
Dharamsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Mr Gyari added that he was "not confident" about future talks with Beijing.

"His holiness has felt that the best way is through dialogue. But
China has been uncompromising and unwilling to be responsive," he said.

Mr Gyari's comments came ahead of a six-day meeting of Tibetan
diaspora leaders in Dharamsala that begins today and could signal a
turning point in Tibetan politics.

Hundreds of prominent members of the community in exile will discuss
the future of the Tibetan people and debate how to advance the cause.
Officials in the Tibetan government-in-exile, heads of
non-governmental organisations, activists, scholars and heads of
cultural institutions will attend and draw recommendations for next
steps by the end of the week.

Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, said: "Any
decision could be the basis for how we go forward."

However, the Dalai Lama will not attend the special meeting. "His
holiness wants to give Tibetan people the opportunity to express
their views. He is neutral," said Mr Gyari.

Discussions have taken on added urgency in light of widespread
pro-Tibet demonstrations in March that prompted an aggressive Chinese

Mr Gyari insisted the Dalai Lama sought autonomy within China, not
independence. However, his Chinese counterpart maintained that the
Dalai Lama harboured a "hidden agenda" for independence.

In an effort to make talks with China transparent, Mr Gyari released
the text of a memo, outlining hopes for autonomy, that he presented
to Beijing earlier this month. Mr Gyari said China's
"misunderstanding and distortion" of the memo prompted the public disclosure.

The memo was drafted after Beijing asked the Tibetan envoys to
clarify definitions of autonomy during talks this summer. It requests
self-government in religion, language, culture and other areas and
underscores "the Dalai Lama's commitment to seek a solution for the
Tibetan people within the People's Republic of China"..
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