The New York Times
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October 31, 2008
China Meeting for Dalai Lama Envoys
By JIM YARDLEY
BEIJING — Chinese officials and emissaries of the Dalai Lama are expected to resume talks on Friday about the future of Tibet despite low expectations for a breakthrough and growing disillusionment among exiled Tibetans over the halting diplomatic process.
Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, confirmed that two senior envoys left New Delhi on Thursday for a five-day trip to Beijing. He said the Chinese had not provided a schedule but predicted that talks would begin on Friday.
“They will get down to business,” he said in a telephone interview.
The latest negotiations are the eighth round of talks since 2002 in a process that assumed heightened international significance after violent Tibetan protests erupted last March in Lhasa and then quickly spread elsewhere in western China. Foreign leaders called on China to resume the talks — which had broken off in 2007 — and threatened a possible boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
Chinese leaders had vilified the Dalai Lama and accused him of orchestrating the protests. But they relented and the two sides met secretly in May in the city of Shenzhen, then in July in Beijing. Those discussions resulted in an agreement for this week’s post-Olympic meeting but no tangible progress.
At the same time, Chinese authorities have continued hard-line policies in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas. Officials have ordered Tibetan monks at Buddhist monasteries to submit to patriotic education campaigns and have also continued to block foreign journalists from visiting areas of western Sichuan Province that saw especially violent confrontations between Tibetans and paramilitary forces.
The lack of progress in the negotiations has deepened frustration among Tibetan exile groups in Dharamsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile. For years, the Dalai Lama has called for autonomy within China, rather than independence, a stance that has been met with deep suspicion by Chinese authorities as well as mounting impatience among many younger, more confrontational Tibetans living outside China.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Dalai Lama expressed concerns about the negotiating process. “I have faith and trust in the Chinese people; however, my faith and trust in the Chinese government is diminishing,” he stated.
The precise agenda for this week’s Beijing meeting is uncertain, though Chinese authorities have said they are only willing to discuss the future of the Dalai Lama himself and possible terms for his return to China. Tibetan envoys believe the talks should be framed around the future of Tibet, greater religious tolerance and other issues. The two sides have long sparred over what would constitute the Dalai Lama’s goal of “genuine autonomy” within China.
“The task at hand is to develop a system that would grant the kind of autonomy required for the Tibetans to be able to survive as a distinct and prosperous people within the People’s Republic of China,” said one of the senior Tibetan envoys in the talks, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, during a speech earlier this month at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.