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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China's blind spot

November 28, 2008

International Herald Tribune
November 27, 2008

Despite rising calls for Tibetan independence, nearly 600 Tibetan
exiles from Buddhist monasteries and the diaspora in India, Europe
and America have wisely reaffirmed the Dalai Lama's "middle way" of
nonviolence toward China and autonomy for Tibet. China's leaders are
unwisely refusing to seriously pursue a compromise.

Tibetans are increasingly frustrated. Talks since 2002 between the
Dalai Lama's representatives and Chinese officials have yielded no progress.

Beijing has invested heavily to improve the quality of life in Tibet.
But it continues to restrict Tibetans' rights, while seeking to
dilute their power by encouraging Han Chinese to migrate to the region.

During the latest round of talks, the Tibetans offered a memorandum
that proposes to protect Tibet's traditions within the autonomy
provisions of China's Constitution. Beijing continues to claim that
the Dalai Lama's real plan is to break Tibet away from China. The
Dalai Lama has repeatedly endorsed autonomy. And the memorandum could
not have been plainer: "We remain firmly committed not to seek
separation or independence."

In an interview this summer with Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for
this newspaper, the Dalai Lama made clear his acquiescence to another
of Beijing's demands - that Tibet accept the socialist system under
Communist Party rule. If China's leaders doubt his sincerity, they
should test him with good-faith negotiations.

Time is running out. Anti-Chinese riots in the Tibetan capital of
Lhasa in March showed that many Tibetans have lost all patience.
According to official Chinese reports, 18 civilians and one policeman
died in a rampage that burned 120 houses. Exile groups say Chinese
security forces killed scores of Tibetans in the crackdown that followed.

Beijing remains obstinate. China has now called off a summit with the
European Union, scheduled for Monday, after the French president,
Nicolas Sarkozy, made clear that he planned to meet with the Dalai
Lama later in the week.

It is in Beijing's clear interest to pursue serious negotiations
while the 73-year-old Dalai Lama is still able to persuade his
followers to accept a compromise. Instead, China's leaders seem to be
betting that the problem will go away when the Dalai Lama dies. That
is a cynical and dangerous gamble.
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