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Dalai Lama Envoys Said to Be Visiting Tibet - 2002-09-14

Envoys from Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama are said to be visiting Tibet following rare talks in Beijing. It is a small step toward resolving decades of conflict over who should rule the region. Sources in the Tibetan exile community say the envoys, including Lodi Gyari, have started their visit to Tibet but they will not say exactly where in the vast region they are. Other sources tell VOA's Tibetan service the envoys are in Lhasa, capital of the region that has been ruled by China for the past half century.

The administrator who runs the Potala Palace, home to Dalai Lamas for centuries, said he expects to see the envoys but would not tell journalists exactly when.

The visit follows secretive talks in Beijing that may have covered setting up more formal talks, perhaps leading to a visit to Tibet by the Dalai Lama. There has been no public comment about the talks.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of waging a campaign to split Tibet from China. Tibet's spiritual leader fled his home in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his peaceful but persistent struggle against Chinese rule.

Chinese troops imposed communism on the deeply religious Buddhist region in 1950. Human rights groups say Chinese officials throw Tibetans in jail for the slightest expression of dissent and commits widespread human rights abuses.

China denies these allegations and says its rule improved the economic condition of a desperately poor region and freed Tibetans from a feudal theocracy that forced them to live lives of serfdom.

China also says it is spending millions of dollars to restore monasteries and temples that are the heart of Tibet's unique brand of Buddhism. Thousands of religious facilities were destroyed during China's Cultural Revolution in the 1960's.