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Tibetans Vote for No More Talks with China


Tibetan exiles have concluded a six-day meeting with a reaffirmation of the Dalai Lama's "middle way" approach towards China. But the Tibetans have told their leadership not to send any further envoys to Beijing in wake of the failure of previous talks on Tibetan autonomy. And as VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Dharamsala, India, the Tibetans have issued a warning to the Chinese that if they do not respond positively to appeals for meaningful autonomy for Tibet then they will decide to pursue independence.

Nearly 600 Tibetans, who came from around their world to the their government's home in exile in India are proclaiming with one voice they will not allow China to swallow their identity.

As they concluded their six-day meeting here, the Tibetans stood to sing their national anthem performed by schoolgirls playing flutes and young men banging drums.

But there were discordant notes. Officials say while a majority pledged to follow their spiritual leader on whatever path he chooses, others wanted to take a stronger stand.

The meeting's declaration reaffirms support for the Dalai Lama's middle way approach for autonomy within China - a strategy that even he has called a failure.

A significant minority wanted a shift to pursuit of independence.

"We had hoped we would revert to our original goal of independence because when we first came into exile in 1959 our main goal was independence and then go back," said Tsewan Ringzin, the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Leaders of the government in exile say if China does not respond positively to their requests for meaningful autonomy then a future special meeting could demand independence.

Deputy parliament speaker Doma Gyari says, in the meantime, the frustrated delegates have made it clear there should be no further Tibetan-Sino talks for now.

"We have decided that we will not send the envoys for further contact," she said.

One of the meeting's subcommittee chairs, Lobsang Sangay, a senior fellow of the Harvard Law School in the United States, is holding out hope talks could resume.

"A door is still open based on His Holiness' view of middle path," he said.

The decisions made Saturday are recommendations to the parliament in exile which meets again in four months.

The Dalai Lama called for the unprecedented meeting but did not attend or issue a recommendation, saying he did not want to influence the debate.

Some Tibetans contend the meeting was a waste of time because it will not affect the decades-long struggle against Chinese rule.

Bookshop owner Lhasang Tsering was one of the last of the CIA-financed exile Tibetan fighters in the 1970s, who were based in Nepal.

"The people inside Tibet have voted for freedom with their lives," he said. "In my humble view nobody can vote more clearly than to vote with their lives. Here, it's a question of putting a piece of paper in a tin box."

China, in remarks before the special meeting here, also called the conclave irrelevant. It accused the Dalai Lama and his followers of using the conference as part of their ongoing plot to grab one-fourth of China's territory. Beijing contends Tibet historically is a part of China.

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