Dalai Lama envoys begins with Chinese officials

The Dalai Lama’s envoys met Chinese officials today – the first talks between the two sides have since violent anti-government protests erupted in Tibet.

As the two parties gathered, President Hu Jintao said in Beijing he hoped for a “positive outcome” and that the “door of dialogue remains open,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

A separate Xinhua report confirmed the meeting took place in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen.

It said the Chinese officials, Zhu Weiqun and Sitar, told the Tibetan envoys that last month’s violence “had given rise to new obstacles for further contacts and consultations with the Dalai side” but that the government “still arranged this meeting with great patience and sincerity.”

“The central government hoped that to create conditions for the next round of contact and consultation, the Dalai side would take credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China, stop plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games,” Xinhua said.

The meeting’s exact location in Shenzhen, close to Hong Kong, was not announced.

A large group of foreign reporters waited outside a palm tree-lined statehouse compound in suburban Shenzhen that was believed to be the meeting venue, but no sign of the parties was seen.

Mr Hu said he hoped the Dalai Lama would take concrete actions to stop the violence and end what he called attempts to disrupt the Beijing Olympics and split China, Xinhua reported.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said he was not behind the recent unrest, and that his envoys planned to ask China to address the accusations, said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India.

The Dalai Lama’s side also wanted to push for an easing of tensions in Tibetan areas of China, Mr Rinpoche said.

“Our hopes are high, but this is just a small step in a long process,” said Mr Rinpoche, adding that the discussions would last a day or two.

But even as the talks took place, China kept up its verbal attacks on the Dalai Lama.

Xinhua quoted Chinese experts on Tibet as saying the Tibetan Youth Congress, an exile group, was dedicated to separating Tibet from China and was the “armed spearhead of the 14th Dalai Lama group.”

International critics have accused China of heavy-handed tactics in quelling anti-government riots and protests in Tibet and Tibetan areas of western China. Some experts believe Beijing agreed to meet the envoys to ease that criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa in March, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died in protests and a subsequent crackdown.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet during a failed uprising in 1959, says he is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from Chinese rule.

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