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Tibetan Leaders Contemplate 'Great Change' Following March Protests


Tibet's parliament in exile has scheduled an emergency meeting in mid-November. Spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, requested the legislators adopt a resolution on the future of the Tibetan movement following the political unrest in their homeland this year. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman traveled to Dharamsala in northern India, the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibet's government in exile. He reports on what Tibetans leaders there are contemplating about the upcoming extraordinary legislative conference.

Nestled below a clouded Himalayan range in northern India, Tibetan monks in exile recite sacred Buddhist scriptures.

These days the monks here in the Dalai Lama's personal monastery, the Namgyal, are also contemplating the fate of Tibet.

The country's parliament in exile has approved the Dalai Lama's request for an emergency session in November to debate the future direction.

This follows the Tibetan protests and Chinese crackdown in March. For the 130,000 Tibetan exiles, the question is whether to continue with their spiritual leader's "middle way" approach towards China - neither accepting Tibet's present status under Beijing nor seeking independence from Chinese rule. Some now question the middle path after the exile government counted 200 dead from the crackdown and an undetermined number of monks and lay people missing.

The Fifth Samdhong Rinpoche is the Kalon Tripa or prime minister of Tibet's government in exile. The incarnate lama tells VOA News this year's events have created a seismic shift.

"Since March 2008, there have been a lot of protests and, then, international sympathy," the Kalon Tripa said. "A great change has been taking place during these days. And we shall have to review the situation and how we shall have to channelize our future course of action."

Input will come not only from Tibet's parliament-in-exile, but also from intellectuals and non-governmental organizations in the exile community - mostly living in India.

The Kalon Tripa has long advocated the kind of nonviolent resistance popularized by the Indian nationalist leader, Mahatma Gandhi, believing those in Tibet should assert their rights under Chinese law to stymie Beijing.

Younger Tibetans have also expressed frustration with the status quo.

The stated goal of the Tibetan Youth Congress is complete independence for Tibet. The organization's president, Tsewang Ringzin, tells VOA News the November special meeting will give Tibetan youth an opportunity to make their voices heard by their elders. "And as long as people do that and as long as whoever attends the meeting, if they come to represent the true aspirations of the Tibetan people, I think we will have results," Ringzin said.

One alternative that gets no public support among the monks and lay people in Dharamsala is violent struggle against China. The head of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which China classifies as a terrorist organization, agrees armed resistance is unacceptable.

"There is no question about it. The little support that we have internationally is due to the fact that our struggle is a non-violent struggle," Ringzin said. "Regardless of how you look at it, violence is not an option at all for our struggle."

Meanwhile, Tibet's government-in-exile wants China to account for the Tibetans missing following the March uprising. The prime minister of the Central Tibetan Administration says the number of Tibetans casualties this year remains unclear.

"A large number of Tibetans are still missing. A large number of monks and nuns who were taken away from Lhasa are still imprisoned in various untold places," the Kalon Tripa said. "We are hearing the unconfirmed news now they are beginning to release [them] but not allowing [them] to go back to the Lhasa monasteries."

China has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting violence to disrupt this year's Beijing Olympic Games.

An eighth round of dialog between his exile government and the Chinese government had been scheduled for October, but the Kalon Tripa says it is questionable whether the talks will be held. "After July contact, there has not been any interaction with them, directly or indirectly," he said.

Tibetan leaders say the Chinese made unacceptable demands on the Dalai Lama at the last round of talks. If the planned talks this month yields no progress, they say, the discussions, which began six years ago, likely will not continue.

For now, all the monks of the Namgyal Monastery can do is pray for better times in their homeland hoping in the meantime it will not all go up in smoke.

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