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Envoys from Dalai Lama Meet Chinese Officials in Beijing - 2002-09-10

Beijing and Tibet are taking a very small step toward resolving their decades-long dispute over how to rule Tibet. Envoys from Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are holding talks in China.

Envoys Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen are expected to discuss the possibility of resuming official dialogue broken off in 1993, or even a visit by the Dalai Lama to Tibet, which is ruled by China.

Beijing has played down the discussions, calling the envoys "tourists" who will visit the capital of Tibet and "see for themselves" that Chinese rule has brought improvements in the lives of average Tibetans.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama says he is pleased his representatives are able to visit Beijing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Tibet's spiritual leader will have to give up what Beijing calls a campaign to split Tibet away from China before he can return.

Mr. Kong said the Dali Lama must also accept Beijing's long-held position that Tibet and Taiwan are integral parts of China, and Beijing is the only legitimate ruler of these areas.

The Dalai Lama has said he wants autonomy for his homeland, not independence.

China took control of Tibet half a century ago, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile with thousands of supporters in 1959 after an unsuccessful uprising against rule from Beijing.

The Dalai Lama accuses China of widespread human-rights abuses in Tibet and of trying to overwhelm the Tibetan population with ethnic Chinese immigrants.