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China Asks Jimmy Carter for Tibet Advice

A Hong Kong newspaper reports that China has asked former U.S. president Jimmy Carter for advice on how to resolve its dispute with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Tibetan exile groups are skeptical of any breakthrough.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper says China has invited former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to travel to Tibet and make recommendations on how to settle its differences with the Dalai Lama, who is exiled in India. The comments were published in Sunday's edition of the newspaper, after Chinese President Jiang Zemin discussed Tibet and other issues with Mr. Carter.

Mr. Carter reportedly said that Mr. Jiang invited him to come back with a small and highly qualified delegation, to travel throughout Tibet and visit Christian and other religious leaders.

The Post quotes Mr. Carter as saying that he would like to see direct talks between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama's representatives, as well as an end to China's requirement that Christian groups be registered with the government.

But Tanzin Chokay, a researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala, India, told VOA that visits by high-level delegations are "futile." "The delegations are obviously taken around by the Chinese officials and are shown a very glamorous picture of the situation in Tibet," he said. "Delegations do not have the freedom to talk to people using their own translators. So most often the delegations are not able to see the real situation of human rights abuses in Tibet," Chokay said. Chinese troops occupied Tibet in 1950, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. The Dalai Lama has offered to hold talks with China's leaders over the fate of Tibet, but Beijing has rejected any dialogue with him, saying that he must first declare that Tibet is a part of China.