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China stance on Tibet clouds exile talks in India

November 19, 2008

Staff and agencies
The Associated Press
November 18, 2008

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GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press Writer Gillian Wong, Associated Press
Writer – 24 mins ago AP – Tibetan Buddhist monks wait outside the
Tibetan Children's Village School in Dharmsala, India, Monday, …

"Any attempt to separate Tibet from Chinese territory will be
doomed," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference
Tuesday. "The so-called Tibet government in exile is not recognized
by any government in the world."

The meeting in the northern India hill town of Dharmsala, the base of
Tibet's self-proclaimed government-in-exile, was called by the Dalai
Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. It comes after he
expressed frustration over years of fruitless talks with China and
follows this spring's uprising by Tibetans across western China that
was aggressively put down by Beijing.

China insists Tibet has been part of its territory for 700 years,
although many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most
of that time. Chinese forces invaded shortly after the 1949 communist
revolution and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid an
unsuccessful uprising.

Much of the debate is expected to boil down to two main choices:
whether to continue pursuing the politics of compromise or to begin a
long-shot independence movement — a move almost certain to end talks
held intermittently with Beijing since 2002.

Samdhong Rinpoche, the exile prime minister, told the meeting Monday
there would be an "open and frank discussion." He said the meeting
may not lead to a new approach, and that any new path needs to have
"the clear mandate of the people."

Any deviation from current policies was almost certain to scuttle the
tenuous ties with Beijing, which has long accused the Dalai Lama of
fomenting an independence movement.

"It seems to be a possible Chinese strategy to make the radical
section much stronger," said Robbie Barnett, an expert on Tibet at
Columbia University. "It would mean no contacts with China and make
contacts with the international community very difficult."

"We can't live with China," said Lobsang Phelgye, 55, who came to
Dharmsala from the exile community in Nepal.

The plan calls for the protection for the Tibetan language and
culture, restrictions on non-Tibetans moving into Tibet and the
rights of Tibetans to create an autonomous government.

But China apparently rejected the plan. Chinese officials said no
progress was made in the talks two weeks ago, calling the Tibetan
stance "a trick" and saying it lacked sincerity.

Tibetan envoy Lodi Gyari said the Chinese failed to respond to "our
sincere and genuine attempts."

China has dismissed this week's meeting as meaningless, saying the
participants do not represent the views of most Tibetans.

Chophel, the parliament speaker, said more than 8,000 of 17,000
Tibetans recently surveyed in Tibet said they would follow any
decision by the Dalai Lama. More than 5,000 said they wanted Tibetan
independence — more than twice the number who wanted to continue with
the current approach, he said.

The survey almost certainly was done secretly. There was no way to
independently verify the results.

After the March uprising in western China, Chinese forces set up
camps near major monasteries and important towns, and many monks were
expelled from the clergy. Those controls have been heightened
recently, according to accounts from recent travelers to the region.

"The people inside Tibet may say as quick as possible a solution is
better, anything that will get the Chinese off our backs," Barnett said.

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in Dharmsala, India, and Gavin
Rabinowitz in New Delhi contributed to this report.
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