- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2008

SHENZHEN, China (AP) — The Dalai Lama’s envoys met yesterday with Chinese officials in the first talks between the two sides since violent anti-government protests erupted in Tibet, bringing international pressure on Beijing ahead of the Summer Olympics.

International critics have accused China of heavy-handed tactics in quelling anti-government riots and protests in Tibet and Tibetan areas of western China that began in March. Some analysts think Beijing agreed to meet with the envoys to ease that criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

The Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader who fled Tibet in 1959 amid a Chinese crackdown, has previously said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency confirmed the meeting took place “at the repeated requests made by the Dalai side.” As the two parties gathered, President Hu Jintao said in Beijing that he hopes for a “positive outcome” and that the “door of dialogue remains open,” Xinhua said.

Chinese official Zhu Weiqun told the envoys that violence in Tibet “had given rise to new obstacles for further contacts and consultations with the Dalai side” but the government “still arranged this meeting with great patience and sincerity,” Xinhua reported.

“The central government hoped that to create conditions for the next round of contact and consultation, the Dalai side would take credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China, stop plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games,” Xinhua said.

The Dalai Lama’s representatives planned to push for an easing of tensions in Tibetan areas of China and address Beijing’s accusations that the spiritual leader has been masterminding the recent unrest, said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India, at a public rally.

China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa in March, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died in the protests and the subsequent rioting and crackdown by the Chinese government.

Beijing claims the Dalai Lama and his supporters organized the riots with the aim of severing the far western Himalayan region of Tibet from Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that he was not behind the unrest.

Even as the talks took place, China continued its verbal attacks on the Dalai Lama.

Xinhua quoted Chinese analysts on Tibet as saying the Tibetan Youth Congress, an exile group, was the “armed spearhead of the 14th Dalai Lama group” dedicated to separating Tibet from China.

The Dalai Lama was represented by Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen.

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