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China, Tibetan Envoys Open New Round of Talks

BY Admin  July 1, 2008 at 11:00 AM EST

Dalai Lama

Two envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, are representing the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile in his quest for an autonomous Tibet and more political, religious and economic freedom from China. The Chinese government claims he is a threat to China’s sovereignty.

“His holiness the Dalai Lama has instructed the envoys to make every effort to bring about tangible progress to alleviate the difficult situation for Tibetans in their homeland,” a statement from the Dalai Lama’s office said.

The Dalai Lama is the key figure in Tibetan Buddhism and a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has based the exiled Tibetan government in Dharmsala, India.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Tuesday that the Chinese government’s top priority is to push the Dalai Lama toward the “three stops,” according to Voice of America. Liu said the three stops are for the Dalai Lama to stop separatist activity, stop inciting violence and stop attempting to disrupt the Olympics, which begin Aug. 8 in Beijing, according to VOA.

But details of the meeting remained secret at the start of talks Tuesday morning — Chinese officials would not reveal the time, place or agenda. Gao Fei, director of the Propaganda Office of the United Front Work Department, which is hosting the meeting, confirmed the talks on Monday but could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Samdhong Rinpoche, the exiled Tibetan government’s prime minister also offered no comment Tuesday, saying he would comment once talks closed on Wednesday.

The two parties held a first round of informal talks in May in Shenzhen, a city in southern China, which led to an offer for future discussions.

In March, a peaceful demonstration by Tibetan Buddhist monks in Tibet’s capitol of Lhasa commemorating the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in 1959 escalated into a larger public uprising against Chinese rule in the Himalayan mountain region. The Chinese government reacted by sending police in riot gear and armored military into the area to curb protests, a move that drew international attention to the area and resulted in more than 20 deaths.

Chinese officials blamed the Dalai Lama for the uprisings.

“It’s the Dalai Lama who organized and carefully planned the provocation and violence. It’s caused by the Tibetan separatists inside and outside China in a bid to create chaos to interfere with the Beijing Olympics,” said a Chinese spokeswoman in March.

With China in the world spotlight as the summer Olympics host, some observers say the revived talks with Tibet are meant to curb criticism of the Chinese government ahead of the games.

As the Olympic torch traveled the globe, protesters met it along the way in London, Paris and San Francisco. The torch passed through Tibet as scheduled on June 21 with no disruptions but with the accompaniment of hundreds of police.

Tibet remains largely closed off to many foreign journalists but restrictions have relaxed slightly ahead of the Olympics.