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Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

Tibetans back Dalai Lama on China

Dalai Lama in Japan 6/11/2008
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in Dharamsala for 50 years

Tibetan exiles meeting in India have agreed to back the Dalai Lama's policy of seeking autonomy, rather than full independence, from China.

But the decision to support the Tibetan spiritual leader's approach to continue talks with Beijing was viewed as conditional on progress being made.

The Dalai Lama himself recently said he feared talks with China had reached a dead end.

Some Tibetans have indicated that they support pressing for full independence.

Under the Dalai Lama's so-called "Middle Way" approach, Tibetans would essentially stop pushing for the re-establishment of Tibet as an independent nation.

TIBET DIVIDE
China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
In 1950, China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India
Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not full independence

The policy was given renewed backing by majority vote at the week-long meeting in Dharamsala, convened by Tibetan leaders-in-exile to discuss their approach to relations with China.

Although Tibet has enjoyed long periods of autonomy or self-rule, China maintains that it has always been an integral part of its territory.

Chinese Communist forces invaded Tibet in 1950 and have ruled there ever since.

The BBC's Chris Morris, in Dharamsala, says the Tibetan exile community without a doubt still backs the Dalai Lama. But he notes that for the first time there are caveats, and alternative views have been endorsed.

Karma Chophel, speaker of the Tibetan government in exile on the results of the meeting

The meeting concluded that if China makes no effort to meet the Dalai Lama's demands then other options, including calls for independence and self determination, would be put forward.

Delegates also suggested that the Dalai Lama's envoy should not return to China unless attitudes change in Beijing.

The recommendations are non-binding. But the Dalai Lama had indicated before the conference that he wanted to hear the views of his people.

The Dalai Lama himself is expected to comment on the decisions on Sunday.



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