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China dissidents call for dialogue with Dalai Lama
Reuters[Saturday, March 22, 2008 22:15]

BEIJING, March 22: A group of 29 Chinese dissidents urged Beijing on Saturday to open direct dialogue with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in the wake of rioting in the region.

Monk-led anti-Chinese protests erupted in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, on March 10 and spilled over into Chinese provinces populated by Tibetans. Some turned violent with Chinese leaders blaming the Dalai Lama for engineering the rioting. "We appeal to the country's leaders to directly engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama. We hope to eliminate misunderstanding between Han and Tibetans," the group said in an open letter e-mailed to reporters, referring to the majority Han Chinese.

The pro-democracy activists, led by writer Wang Lixiong and dissident Liu Xiaobo, urged the government to invite UN investigators to Tibet to change the international community's distrust of China.

They also suggested allowing credible domestic and foreign journalists to independently report from the predominantly Buddhist region and said those arrested should be given an open and fair trial.

The dissidents said they hoped the government would produce evidence to substantiate accusations that the Dalai Lama premeditated the unrest. The Dalai Lama has denied the charge.

The government should tone down its Cultural Revolution-era invective against the Dalai Lama which was only fanning the flames of "ethnic hatred" and undermining the country's image.

"Serious mistakes exist in (government) work on Tibet," the letter said, pressing the government to fundamentally change its "failed" policies towards ethnic groups.

But their demands are likely to fall on deaf ears in the government which has long refused to hold talks with the Dalai Lama who has lived in exile in India for almost half a century.

(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Nick Macfie)
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