Page last updated at 06:22 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tibetans irritated by China talks

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, leaves hospital in Delhi on 16 October
The Dalai Lama's "middle way" seeks autonomy but not full independence

Tibetan exiles are losing patience with Beijing over the pace of talks on the future of the Himalayan region.

Chinese officials and envoys from the Tibetan government-in-exile are currently engaged in talks that were due to end on Wednesday.

But the Tibetan side has criticised what it sees as China's unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussions.

In response, China launched a scathing attack on the Dalai Lama, who has expressed doubt about the talks.

The frustration with the talks comes as the Chinese government announced a total of 55 people have been sentenced in connection with the unrest in Lhasa in March.

The current round of discussions is the third time the two sides have met since the unrest in China's Tibetan areas.

Neither side has been willing to comment on the talks while they are still taking place.

Critical moment

"There is a limit to the patience of the Tibetan people," said Thubten Samphel, spokesman for the government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India.

He added that these talks were "critical".

Some analysts say the Tibetans could pull out of the discussion process if there is no progress.

"We certainly hope there is a positive and open-minded response from the Chinese," said the Tibetan spokesman, referring to the current talks.

But there is a wide gulf between the Chinese and the Tibetans.

At the last talks, held in July, the two sides could not even agree to issue a joint statement expressing their commitment to the discussion process.

'Worsening problems'

The Dalai Lama, head of the government-in-exile as well as Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, has also expressed his concerns.

Last month, he said the Chinese government did not seem interested in seriously tackling the problems in Tibet, which he believes are getting worse.

He made similar comments on a trip to Japan this week, words that led to anger in China.

In a commentary piece published by the state-run Xinhua news agency on Tuesday, China said the Dalai Lama had adopted a "pathetic posture" to gain public attention.

"His 'disappointment' also showed his reluctance to give up his stance to seek 'Tibetan independence'," the commentary added.

Such comments suggest it is unlikely that there will be any real progress during these current talks.

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