Lodi Gyari, an envoy of the exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, speaks to journalists before his departure from the Hong Kong airport Tuesday, May 6, 2008. Gyari left China after Sunday's talks in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen with the Chinese negotiators with a solid offer from Beijing for future talks, marking a small step toward expanding dialogue between the two sides following anti-government riots in Tibet. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
HONG KONG: Talks between Chinese officials and envoys from the Tibetan government-in-exile were a "good first step," one of the Dalai Lama's representatives said here on Tuesday.
"All very candid. We had very candid discussions," said Lodi Gyari, one of the Tibetan spiritual leader's envoys who met Chinese officials in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
"It was a good first step," he said, when asked to describe the talks which followed deadly violence in the region in March.
Gyari was speaking at Hong Kong International Airport before flying back to India.
He told Hong Kong's Cable TV a statement would be made by the government-in-exile once the two envoys had reported to the Dalai Lama at his northern Indian base in Dharamshala.
The highly secretive talks were the first meeting between the two groups in more than a year following global pressure on Beijing to reopen negotiations amid seven weeks of unrest in Tibet.
Xinhua, China's state press agency, reported earlier that the talks had ended with an agreement to meet again, although no date was set and no other major breakthrough was reported.
Tibetan envoys Lodi Gyari, foreground, and Kelsang Gyaltsen, background right, sit in their car after their arrival at the international airport in New Delhi, Tuesday, May 6, 2008.(AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)
Despite the talks, China's state press has maintained a barrage of abusive rhetoric against the Dalai Lama, with one report accusing him of "monstrous crimes."
China has blamed the Dalai Lama for the unrest that erupted in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, on March 14 and spread to Tibetan-populated regions around the country.
The government-in-exile says 203 Tibetans have been killed and about 1,000 hurt in the Chinese crackdown on the latest unrest. China says Tibetan "rioters" and "insurgents" have killed 21 people.
The exile government previously said it was pleased to reopen dialogue and that its main concern was to end the current wave of repression in the Himalayan region. Talks began in 2002 but were suspended by China last year.
Anti-China protesters holding Tibetan and Japanese flags march in Tokyo May 6, 2008 following Chinese President Hu Jintao's arrival in Japan.
REUTERS/Issei Kato (JAPAN)
"The fact we are once again in contact is very vital for a solution to the Tibetan issue," Thubten Samphel, spokesman of the Tibetan government-in-exile, told AFP by phone on Monday.
Chinese President Hu Jintao on Sunday voiced hope that progress would be made and said he wanted future channels of negotiation to remain open.
China has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of wanting independence for his homeland and of fomenting the recent unrest in an effort to shine a world spotlight on Tibet ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.
The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner has rejected these accusations, but has accused China of widespread human rights violations against his people and maintained his push for greater Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule.
US President George W. Bush was one of the world leaders who pressured China to restart negotiations to end the crisis. The White House on Monday welcomed the talks.
"People in Tibet feel that they are unable to freely practice their religion, freely practice some of their cultural traditions and values, so we believe that talks to discuss those issues are a good step," spokesman Scott Stanzel said.