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Dalai Lama Sends Envoys to China - 2003-05-26

Two envoys of the Dalai Lama are headed for China to expand contacts between Beijing and the Tibetan government-in-exile. They hope to make some progress in resolving the half-century-long dispute over how Tibet should be ruled.

Tibetan exile officials will give no details of the new talks, including when, where, or even which Chinese officials will be involved. But they do note that this will be the second round of informal discussions that began last September, after nearly a decade of frosty official silence between the two sides.

This latest delegation is headed by Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the Dalai Lama's representative in Washington, who also headed a delegation that visited China in September.

At the exile government's headquarters in Dharamsala, India, spokesman Thubten Samphel says the Dalai Lama's representatives hope to expand the contacts they made during that previous trip, and to get a feel for how China's recently-installed leadership views the Tibet issue. He noted that the country's new president, Hu Jintao, once headed the Chinese-dominated government that rules the Tibetan Autonomous Region. "We sincerely hope that his posting in Tibet would make him more sensitive and make him appreciate the problems that have been in Tibet," he says.

Beijing imposed direct rule in Tibet after its troops occupied the region in 1950. Conflicts quickly developed between the atheist Chinese Communists and the deeply traditional Buddhist monks, abbots and lamas who were both the spiritual and political leaders of Tibet.

By 1959, opponents of Chinese rule staged an unsuccessful revolt and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India. Since then, Beijing has run the Tibet Autonomous Region as a province of China, and the two sides have traded long-distance accusations and acrimony.

Chanting by monks at the Jokang Temple in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, is a part of the intensive Buddhist ritual that has traditionally pervaded every aspect of Tibetan life.

Human rights activists and foreign governments often criticize Beijing's rule in Tibet, charging that the Tibetans' culture and Buddhist faith have been brutally suppressed.

Beijing denies mistreating anyone and insists it is bringing prosperity, not oblivion, to Tibet.