Dalai Lama's Envoys To Talk With Chinese
WSJ[Tuesday, May 13, 2008 14:53]
No Conditions Set; Transparency Calls Are Reiterated


DHARMSALA, India -- The Dalai Lama said Monday he expects his envoys to hold talks with Chinese officials next month, even as bitterness lingers from recent protests.

A one-day meeting earlier this month in Shenzhen, China, between the two sides concluded without any sign of consensus.

The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke in an interview outside his residence in this north India hill town, headquarters for Tibet's government in exile following a mass exodus of Tibetans from China in 1959.

"We have proposed" more talks, he said. Though he didn't lay down conditions, the Dalai Lama repeated demands that international organizations and foreign media be allowed to investigate the recent unrest in Tibet. He also said the Chinese government should conduct a review of how it administers the autonomous region and other areas where Tibetans live in China.

"Now the time has come for the Chinese government to conduct a thorough, realistic review," the 72-year-old Buddhist leader said, a maroon shawl wrapped around his crimson and mustard robes. "They have poured in billions [of dollars]. But they have failed to bring satisfaction to Tibetan life. They have to find out what's wrong."

Tenzin Choejor, Office of the Dalai Lama
Tenzin Choejor, Office of the Dalai Lama
There had been no official response from the Chinese government to the Tibetan offer, he added. The United Front Office, the Communist Party department that represents the Chinese side, didn't respond to questions Monday.

The situation in Tibet remains unsettled, and leaders of the two sides have blamed each other for the violence. Earlier this month, Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested that contacts should continue, but accused the Dalai Lama of being a separatist and of stirring up protests in Tibet. Tibetan exile groups have said more than 200 people, mostly Tibetan, have been killed in the unrest; the Chinese government has put the death toll at 22.

In the interview, the Dalai Lama repeated his pledge to step down as leader of Tibet's freedom struggle should the movement turn violent. He said the protests represent a backlash to Beijing's efforts to stifle human rights and religious freedom in Tibetan areas of China. "Please investigate," he implored the Chinese government. "If we are really the instigator, we are awaiting punishment." The Dalai Lama then chuckled deeply.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to depart for Europe Wednesday to conduct a series of Buddhist teachings in Germany and Britain and meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Enlisting support from foreign leaders has been an important part of the Dalai Lama's efforts to bring China to the bargaining table over Tibet's future.

Beijing has bristled at what it sees as foreign interference in a domestic issue. Chinese officials have called the Dalai Lama a "wolf in monk's robes," and state-run media have whipped up popular opposition to the Tibetan leader.

The Dalai Lama said he witnessed more Chinese students protesting against him during a recent visit to the U.S., but the perception that he is anti-China or opposed to Beijing's hosting the Olympics is "100% wrong."

"We always respect and admire the Chinese people," he said. To make headway this time around, Tibetan and Chinese negotiators must work amid the charged political environment. And they need to overcome suspicions of each other and set aside charges of missed opportunities in the past, analysts said.

"There's 30 years of mistrust between them," said A. Tom Grunfeld, a Tibet scholar at Empire State College of the State University of New York. "That's the elephant in the room."

At the same time, new talks may serve the interests of both sides. China is hoping to ease political tensions -- both inside the country and abroad -- as it gears up to host the Summer Olympics. For his part, the Dalai Lama, who supports only peaceful means of widening Tibet's autonomy, has no real alternatives to dialogue.

Write to Peter Wonacott at peter.wonacott@wsj.com