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Chinese president hopeful on Tibet talks

May 5, 2008


SHENZHEN, China May 4, 2008 (AP) — President Hu Jintao said he has hopes
for a positive outcome between representatives of the Dalai Lama and
Chinese officials at talks that began Sunday — the first since violent
anti-government protests erupted in Tibet in March.

"I hope that the contacts with the Dalai Lama's side from today will
yield a positive outcome," Hu told Japanese reporters in Beijing, the
Kyodo News agency reported.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile
based in Dharmsala, India, said the envoys have arrived in the southern
city of Shenzhen and talks began Sunday morning. He said he didn't know
any other details.

The talks were scheduled to last for a day or two, he said.

"We are positive that something good will come out of it," Samdhong
Rinpoche told The Associated Press.

A report by China's official Xinhua News Agency confirmed the Dalai
Lama's envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, would meet with two vice
ministers of the United Front Work Department, Zhu Weiqun and Sita, who
are designated to deal with influential people in groups outside China's
Communist Party.

The meeting location was not announced but a large group of reporters
from Japan and Hong Kong were staking out a gated development of villas
where high-ranking leaders are known to stay in a leafy suburb of Shenzhen.

The Dalai Lama's representatives planned to push for an easing of
tensions in Tibetan areas of China and address Beijing's accusations
that the spiritual leader has been masterminding the recent unrest,
Samdhong Rinpoche told a public rally in Dharmsala.

"Our hopes are high, but this is just a small step in a long process,"
he said.

The Tibetan government-in-exile has called the meetings "informal talks
with representatives of the Chinese leadership."

International critics have accused China of heavy-handed tactics in
quelling protests in Tibet and Tibetan-community areas of western China.
Some experts believe Beijing agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoys
to ease that criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet's capital of Lhasa in
March, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died
in protests and the subsequent security crackdown.

Beijing claims the Dalai Lama and his supporters organized the riots
with the aim of breaking the far western Himalayan region of Tibet away
from Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet amid a failed uprising in 1959, says he
is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from
Chinese rule. He has decried "cultural genocide" in his homeland, which
has a unique Buddhist tradition distinct from the rest of China.

Associated Press writer Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala, India contributed
to this story.
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