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China, Dalai Lama Envoys Meet in Beijing


Representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are in Beijing to meet with the Chinese authorities. This is the eighth round of talks between the two sides since 2002.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu confirmed that the talks between the Chinese government and envoys from the Dalai Lama are to take place. He says the Dalai Lama's side requested the meeting.

Ma calls on the Dalai Lama to "cherish this opportunity and respond positively" to the Chinese government.

However, he gave little other information and referred to the Ministry of United Front Work, which handles issues concerning Tibet.

Thubten Samdup, a representative for the Dalai Lama in London, says the Chinese government issued an invitation for the talks. He says the Tibetans do not yet know how long this round will last.

"If it lasts for five days, that's a good sign," said Samdup. "If it lasts for one day, that isn't a good sign. So, we actually don't know at this point. The last round of talks was quite disappointing, to be honest."

The last talks were 15 months ago, and produced no results.

"Times are changing and His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] isn't getting any younger," said Samdup. "I think it's time that they get to business and come up with some positive sign. Otherwise, the Tibetans are becoming very, very discouraged and feel that there is no point in having this sort of dialogue."

The 74-year-old Dalai Lama fled to exile in India in 1959, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

The Chinese government accuses him of seeking Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama denies those charges, saying he only wants greater cultural and religious autonomy for his homeland.

Tibetan exiles accuse the Chinese government of discriminating against and repressing Tibetans in Chinese territory.

In a move that is certain to anger China, the White House says President Barack Obama intends to meet with the Dalai Lama in the near future. China has long tried to isolate the spiritual leader and pressures other governments to avoid contact with him.

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