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Dalai Lama Envoys, Chinese Officials to Talk in Beijing

Representatives from Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are in Beijing for two days of meetings with Chinese officials. As Stephanie Ho reports, the meeting follows brief informal talks between the two sides in May.

Tenzin Taklha is the Dalai Lama's spokesman. He says the five-member Tibetan delegation is scheduled to meet with Chinese officials in Beijing, Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The only way this issue can be resolved is by meeting, face to face, and discussing the issue," said Taklha. "And, this seventh round of talks, we feel that this is a positive step because it allows our side to meet with the Chinese counterparts and explain our views about the issue."

One of the main issues is Tibet's status within China. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharmsala, India, of seeking independence for the mountainous region. The Tibetan leader says he only wants greater cultural and religious autonomy for his people.

Taklha calls on the Chinese side to show sincerity in the talks, saying many Tibetans perceive the meeting as a public relations stunt on the part of the Chinese government.

"I think we have to give the Chinese, right now, the benefit of the doubt," said Taklha. "Let the meeting take place right now, first. But we are hopeful that the Chinese - they are now willing to look at the Tibetan issue realistically. And, they have to realize there is a problem inside Tibet, as evidenced by the recent protests in March."

There were deadly riots in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, in March, by Tibetan looters who targeted Chinese victims. China is treating the violence as a strict law enforcement issue, while Tibetans describe the incident as the drastic culmination of growing Tibetan frustration under Chinese rule.

Beijing has squarely blamed the Dalai Lama for "masterminding" the March riots. Taklha calls the accusation groundless.

This charge was repeated recently, by Tibet's Communist Party Secretary Zhang Qingli. He vowed to smash the so-called "Dalai Lama clique," in a speech at the closing ceremony of the one-day Olympic torch relay leg in Lhasa.

The Chinese leader's comments prompted a rebuke last week from the International Olympic Committee, which says it regrets the mixing of sport with politics.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says Beijing remains opposed to any politicizing of the Olympics. He says the Chinese government especially opposes attempts by other people to make use of the Olympics to interfere in China's internal affairs.

He says the Chinese official's comments were not aimed at politicizing the Olympics, but instead were meant to, in his words, "create a stable and harmonious environment for the Olympics."

China hosts the international sporting event in August.