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Dalai Lama Envoys Travel to China for Talks

May 02, 2008

Members of pro-Tibet group display Tibetan flags in Nagano on April 25, 2008. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of pro-Tibet group display Tibetan flags in Nagano on April 25, 2008. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW DELHI—Senior envoys of the Dalai Lama are travelling to China to meet the government over the crisis in Tibet, the government-in-exile said on Friday, only three months before the Beijing Olympics open.

After a crackdown on protests against Chinese rule in Tibet, an international diplomatic chorus earlier this year urged dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Beijing abruptly announced in late April that it intended to meet his aides.

"During this brief visit, the envoys will take up the urgent issue of the current crisis in the Tibetan areas," the government-in-exile said in a statement on its website.

Tibet has become a flashpoint for anti-China protests that have disrupted the Olympic torch relay around the world and has led to calls for state leaders to boycott the Beijing Games, which open on Aug. 8.

The talks will be the first since violent protests broke out in Tibet in March. It was not clear where they would take place.

Some experts say the meeting will achieve nothing. There have been six rounds of dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama's envoys since 2002 with no breakthrough.

"China's main objective is the successful completion of the Olympics," said Brahma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "These talks are just a public relations exercise."

"China's main objective is the successful completion of the Olympics. These talks are just a public relations exercise."

Experienced Envoys

The two envoys are due to arrive in China on Saturday for what the Tibetan side called "informal talks". The envoys, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, are both senior and experienced representatives of the Dalai Lama, experts say.

"We are hopeful that the Chinese are willing to address the Tibet issue realistically," Tenzin Taklha, a spokesman of the Dalai Lama, told Reuters from India, where the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile is based.

Despite the offer of talks, China has accused Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, who fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Communist rule, of manipulating opinion and governments in the West.

For full coverage please see Repression in Tibet

China has blamed the exiled Buddhist leader's "clique" for unrest in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas, which it says was aimed at upstaging the Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama says he is campaigning for autonomy for the strategic Himalayan border region. But China, which says it sent troops in 1950 to Tibet to liberate the country from feudal serfdom, says he is bent on independence.

Some analysts said they may be a chance for some progress with the talks.

"Both sides know there is nowhere to go apart from talks," said Prof. Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea, emeritus fellow of the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi.

"And with the Olympic Games coming, China will be a little more anxious for them (the talks) to help."

The Olympic torch was run through Hong Kong on Friday, in a festive return to China after protests in other cities across the world. But tensions flared again as patriotic crowds heckled protesters and police briefly detained eight demonstrators.

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