Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Tibetans blamed for failed talks

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Potala Palace, Lhasa
China will not accept any form of Tibetan independence

Talks between China and Tibetan exiles on the future of the Himalayan region have failed to make any progress.

Chinese officials blame the failure on the Tibetans, whom they believe still want independence for the region.

Although the two sides have engaged in "frank and sincere" talks, there are still "serious divergences" of opinion, according to the Chinese.

The Tibetans have yet to comment officially, but they recently expressed frustration at China's attitude.

Talks between the two sides ended last week.

It was the eighth time they have met for discussions since 2002.

Blame game

The process was given added importance after March this year, when there were riots and demonstrations in Tibetan areas of China.

Unrest in Lhasa on 14 March
Riots broke out in several Tibetan areas in March
But Zhu Weiqun, of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, said the talks had not got anywhere.

"Our contacts and talks failed to make progress and [the Tibetans] should assume full responsibility for it," he told a press conference.

The Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetans in exile, has previously said he does not want independence for Tibet, only meaningful autonomy.

But Mr Zhu said that a memorandum presented by the Tibetans to the Chinese during the latest talks showed they had not given up their dream of independence.

"They aimed at revising the constitution so that this separatist group could actually possess the power of an independent state," said Mr Zhu.

He added that China would not accept "independence, half-independence or covert independence".

The memorandum also contained other proposals that were unacceptable, such as a plan to withdraw Chinese troops from Tibetan areas, Mr Zhu said.

He claimed the plan would give non-Tibetans less rights in the region, a move that he described as "ethnic cleansing".

Mr Zhu also claimed Tibetans had continued to disrupt the Beijing Olympic Games, despite promises to support the event.

Obstacles ahead?

While the Chinese have not ruled out future talks, their stark language suggests there is little chance of real progress in the near future.

Tibetan exiles, based in Dharamsala, India, will meet later this month to discuss the way forward.

"We have been advised not to make statements about [the latest talks] before this meeting," Kasur Lodi Gyari, head of the Tibetan delegation at the talks, said last week.

The Dalai Lama, who is also Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual head, has recently expressed his frustration at what he sees as China's reluctance to engage in meaningful talks with the Tibetans.

In 1989 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve the Tibetan situation without violence.

But it is clear that the Chinese see him as an obstacle.

"The Dalai Lama should fundamentally change his political propositions and live up to his words… to improve his relations with the central authorities," Mr Zhu said at the press briefing.

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