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Dalai Lama's Envoys to Hold Talks Sunday with Chinese Officials

  • Daniel Schearf

Representatives of the Dalai Lama are to meet with Chinese officials this weekend for the first talks on Tibet since violent unrest broke out in March. But, as Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, the talks are not expected to yield any breakthroughs.

Two envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader were scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong Saturday ahead of informal talks with Chinese officials in neighboring Shenzhen.

The meeting would be the first between the Dalai Lama's envoys and Chinese officials since Beijing cracked down on violent unrest in Tibetan areas of China.

The India-based Tibetan government-in-exile said the representatives of the Dalai Lama would express concerns to Chinese officials about the handling of the situation and give suggestions for restoring peace.

Barry Sautman is a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He says a breakthrough is not likely, but some form of agreement might be possible.

"My guess is that at the end of this round of talks we will hear that the two sides have agreed to have more talks, that they have agreed that the situation in Tibet should be stabilized, and that they will take up important issues in future rounds of talks," he said. "I don't think we can expect to hear much more than that."

Beijing blames the Dalai Lama and his supporters for riots that broke out in March after several days of monk-led peaceful protests against government persecution.

Chinese authorities reacted by cutting off Tibetan areas from foreigners and forcing monks to stay in their monasteries.

International concern about the situation led to calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics and embarrassing protests against the global Olympic torch relay.

Many Western governments urged Chinese leaders to engage with the Dalai Lama on the issue, and Beijing finally conceded.

The two sides have met several times in the past few years to discuss Tibet and the possibility of the Dalai Lama returning to Tibet, but with little to show for it.

The Dalai Lama says he wants political autonomy for Tibetan areas of China, but he wants Tibet to remain a part of China.

But the Chinese government says the Dalai Lama cannot be trusted and is seeking to split Tibet from China and wreck preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

Tibet has been under Chinese influence for centuries and officially became a part of Communist China after Chinese troops invaded in the early 1950s. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Beijing claims Tibet has always been a part of China.

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Spokesmen for Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said in India that the delegates will arrive in Hong Kong Saturday and travel to neighboring Shenzhen for meetings on Sunday.

A statement Friday said the Dalai Lama's envoys were expected to hold informal talks with Chinese officials Saturday at an undisclosed location.

The statement said the two envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, will convey the Dalai Lama's concerns about how China has handled protests in Tibet and other Tibetan regions of China. The envoys will also offer suggestions on how to bring peace to the region.

Chinese media have not mentioned the planned meeting, which will be the first since protests in Tibetan regions began in March.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said the envoys will meet with China's United Front Work Department.

The last time China hosted talks with Tibetan representatives was July of last year. The chief Tibetan envoy, Lodi Gyari, said the discussions were candid, but that the two sides remained far apart.

The Dalai Lama says he is opposed to violence and is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet, but China accuses him of masterminding the recent unrest and of secretly promoting Tibet's independence.

China says 18 civilians and one policeman died when protests turned violent on March 14th. But the Tibetan government-in-exile says Chinese security forces killed more than 200 Tibetan protesters, many of them in Lhasa following the riot.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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