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Tibetan exiles pressure China as talks begin
AFP[Tuesday, July 01, 2008 18:12]

A Tibetan demonstrator in exile during a protest in New Delhi
A Tibetan demonstrator in exile during a protest in New Delhi
BEIJING — Tibet's government in exile said Tuesday the onus was on China to make progress in talks in Beijing aimed at easing tensions following deadly unrest that overshadowed the nation's Olympic build-up.

The decision by China to hold talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama had been widely seen as a response to international condemnation of its crackdown on the unrest in Tibet in March that embarrassed Beijing ahead of the August Olympics.

The two-days of meetings were expected to have begun on Tuesday in the Chinese capital, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

"The ball is really in their court," Kesang Yangkyi Takla, the foreign minister of the government in exile located in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala, told a news conference in Tokyo.

She said that China had offered little in the previous rounds of talks that began in 2002.

"I think the world community expects that there should be some sort of positive response this time."

A Chinese paramililtary policeman stands guard in front of the Potala palace in Lhasa
A Chinese paramililtary policeman stands guard in front of the Potala palace in Lhasa
But China, without confirming the talks had begun, on Tuesday placed the onus firmly on the Dalai Lama's side for any progress.

Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters that the Dalai Lama's side must implement the three "stops" -- a Chinese political shorthand for stopping separatist activities, sabotaging the Olympics and violence.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, of fomenting unrest in the Himalayan region that erupted on March 14 after four days of peaceful protests against 57 years of Chinese rule.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says 203 Tibetans were killed and about 1,000 hurt in China's crackdown.

China insists that only one Tibetan was killed, saying it acted with restraint to quell the "rioters" and "insurgents". It has in turn accused the "rioters" of killing 21 people.

The crackdown on the unrest, which spread to neighbouring Tibetan-populated areas of western China, sparked global protests that marred the international month-long international journey of the Olympic torch.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was particularly vocal in speaking out about the crackdown, said on Monday his decision on whether to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics hinged on progress in the talks.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday said he hoped the talks would be successful, shortly before beginning a three-day trip to China.

"I sincerely hope that the dialogue initiated by Chinese authorities... will continue and bear fruit," he said in Tokyo before flying to Beijing.

China has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for his homeland.

But he says he opposes Tibetan independence, although he continues to look for "real and meaningful autonomy" for the region. He has also accused Beijing of widespread human rights violations of his people.

Takla on Tuesday again said that Tibetans were enduring suffering under Chinese rule.

"I think it would be in the interest of China as well as us the Tibetan people that this time they would prove that they are more sensitive to the sufferings of other people," she said.

"Let's be honest about this -- the question of what is happening in Tibet is on the conscience of the world community."

Tuesday's talks come after an informal round of discussions was held on May 4 in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen following global pressure to restart dialogue after the unrest.

China has adopted similar practices in the past, refusing to confirm the talks had occurred until after they had finished.
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