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Tibetans back Dalai Lama on China

November 24, 2008

November 22, 2008

Tibetan exiles meeting in India have agreed to back the Dalai Lama's
policy of seeking autonomy, rather than full independence, from China.

But the decision to support the Tibetan spiritual leader's approach
to continue talks with Beijing was viewed as conditional on progress
being made.

The Dalai Lama himself recently said he feared talks with China had
reached a dead end.

Some Tibetans have indicated that they support pressing for full independence.

Under the Dalai Lama's so-called "Middle Way" approach, Tibetans
would essentially stop pushing for the re-establishment of Tibet as
an independent nation.

The policy was given renewed backing by majority vote at the
week-long meeting in Dharamsala, convened by Tibetan leaders-in-exile
to discuss their approach to relations with China.

Although Tibet has enjoyed long periods of autonomy or self-rule,
China maintains that it has always been an integral part of its territory.

Chinese Communist forces invaded Tibet in 1950 and have ruled there ever since.

The BBC's Chris Morris, in Dharamsala, says the Tibetan exile
community without a doubt still backs the Dalai Lama. But he notes
that for the first time there are caveats, and alternative views have
been endorsed.

The meeting concluded that if China makes no effort to meet the Dalai
Lama's demands then other options, including calls for independence
and self determination, would be put forward.

Delegates also suggested that the Dalai Lama's envoy should not
return to China unless attitudes change in Beijing.

The recommendations are non-binding. But the Dalai Lama had indicated
before the conference that he wanted to hear the views of his people.

The Dalai Lama himself is expected to comment on the decisions on Sunday.

* China says Tibet was always part of its territory
* Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
* In 1950, China launched a military assault
* Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
* Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India
* Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking
autonomy but not full independence
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