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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?"

Tibetans warn Beijing on thirst for freedom

November 27, 2008

By Amy Yee in Dharamsala
The Financial Times
November 24, 2008

Tibetan leaders have backed the Dalai Lama's long-standing policy of
pursuing autonomy for their homeland under Chinese sovereignty but
said they would suspend negotiations with China and consider pushing
for independence if the stalemate drags on.

Nearly 600 Tibetans signalled their impatience and frustration at the
end of a historic week-long "special meeting" convened at their exile
capital in Dharamsala, northern India.

"The majority were for the 'middle way'. But looking at the [actions]
of China in recent times, we've decided we will not send our envoys
for further contact," said Dolma Gyari, deputy speaker of the Tibetan
parliament-in-exile. "If China doesn't respond positively to our
initiative, there will be no alternative but to . . . pursue complete

Envoys of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, said recently
they were "deeply disappointed" with the latest round of talks this
month in Beijing. They claimed that Chinese officials requested and
then dismissed a memo outlining paths towards Tibetan autonomy.

In Dharamsala, delegates drafted a list of recommendations that could
form the basis of a new China policy. The list included general
support for the Dalai Lama's middle way approach but also for
independence if no results come in the near future.

The Dalai Lama refused to comment on the special meeting and said
yesterday that more concrete conclusions would be reached next month.

"It's up to the people. Discussions are still going on," he said,
referring to forthcoming talks with international pro-Tibet groups in
New Delhi this weekend.

The Nobel laureate did not attend the special meeting so delegates
could speak uninhibitedly. But after being briefed, he said he was
"satisfied that people expressed themselves freely".

At a press conference in Dharamsala the Dalai Lama reiterated his
frustration over stalled talks with Beijing and said his faith in the
Chinese government is "getting thinner and thinner".

However, he emphasised he "still has faith in Chinese people", in
spite of their nationalist reaction to the unrest that erupted
earlier this year in Tibet.

Since the protests, the Dalai Lama has been actively reaching out to
Chinese Buddhists, Taiwanese and overseas Chinese in North America,
Europe and Australia. A small group of overseas Chinese had a
three-hour audience with him at the weekend to discuss democracy,
human rights and the Tibetan cause.

"After [the unrest in March] I really felt the Chinese leadership
might have the courage to face reality," the Dalai Lama said. "But
they missed out on a realistic approach.

"If they accept reality we are ready to help them, to co-operate with
them. But they simply suppressed [Tibetans]. Now the Tibetan nation
is almost passing through a death sentence."

While it seems unlikely that the Tibetan parliament-in-exile will
enact soon a radical shift in policy, many were encouraged by the
rapport and discussions generated at last week's meeting.

Tenzing Sonam, a Tibetan filmmaker, said he was "in a state of shock"
that the idea of independence could be discussed in a mainstream venue.

"Before, if you wanted independence you couldn't say it," Mr Sonam
said. "It's a big load off people's backs. Now you can talk about it."
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