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Envoys of Tibet's Dalai Lama in new China talks

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

The Dalai Lama, in Dharamsala on 10 March 2009
Analysts say the Dalai Lama may be China's best chance of compromise

Envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are in Beijing to resume talks with China's government after a break of 15 months.

Discussions broke down in acrimony in 2008, with Beijing saying that no progress had been made.

One of the Dalai Lama's representatives told the BBC he thought the resumption of talks may signal a change in approach from China.

But concrete evidence for this is so far unclear.

Relations between the two sides, which were never good, were strained further due to unrest in Tibetan areas in 2008.

Real autonomy?

This will be the ninth round of discussions between China and the Tibetan government-in-exile since 2002.

CHINA-TIBET RELATIONS
1950: China enforces a long-held claim to Tibet
1959: Full-scale uprising breaks out in Lhasa. Thousands are said to have died. The Dalai Lama and most of his ministers flee to northern India
1989: The Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
2002: Contacts between the Dalai Lama and Beijing resume
March 2008: Anti-China protests escalate into the worst violence Tibet has seen in 20 years, five months before Beijing hosts the Olympics
Nov 2008: China-Tibetan talks end without progress
Jan 2010: China-Tibetan talks resume

News of the resumption of talks was released by the exiled Tibetan leadership, based in Dharamsala in India.

A statement on the website of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, said the five-person group would return to India at the beginning of February.

Speaking to the BBC's China Editor Shirong Chen, the Dalai Lama's representative for northern Europe, Thubten Samdup, suggested China could now be more willing to negotiate than it had been in the past.

"Within the Chinese citizens there's a re-awakening, so to speak, that perhaps the Dalai Lama is the best chance that Beijing has," he said.

But there is little evidence to suggest that China is willing to make definite concessions to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Last week senior Chinese leaders held a major meeting about Tibet - the first in nine years - in which they indicated they would continue their hard-line approach.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told those at the meeting that China would maintain efforts to prevent "penetration and sabotage" by supporters of Tibetan independence.

He added that Beijing would ensure the "normal order of Tibetan Buddhism".

A report on the three-day meeting was carried by the state-run news agency Xinhua, which said: "The Communist Party of China's policies towards Tibet in the new era were totally correct."

Following the last round of talks between the Chinese and Tibetans, Zhu Weiqun, of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, blamed the Tibetans for lack of progress.

He said they had not given up their dream of an independent Tibet.

The Tibetans say they do not want independence, only real autonomy to help protect Tibet's unique culture.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Telegraph Dalai Lama envoys meet with China - 24 hrs ago
France24 China urges Dalai Lama to 'cherish' new talks - 27 hrs ago
Times Online Dalai Lama's envoys arrive in China for new talks - 28 hrs ago
Financial TimesDalai Lama's envoys head to China - 44 hrs ago
Reuters Tibet envoys leave for fresh talks with China - 47 hrs ago
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