Tibet: Dalai Lama “loses hope” for settlement with China

This weekend, the Dalai Lama told his followers he has lost hope of reaching agreement with China on the future of his homeland. The future course of the Tibetan movement—including the possibility of an historic switch from demanding autonomy towards seeking full independence—will be the focus of a meeting next month of around 300 delegates representing the global Tibetan exile diaspora.

In his first public address since undergoing surgery for gallstones, the Dalai Lama said he has given up on extracting any concessions from Beijing after seven rounds of talks between Tibetan envoys and Chinese officials. “He’s lost hope in trying to reach a solution with the present Chinese leadership which is simply not willing to address the issues,” the Dalai Lama’s spokesman Tenzin Taklha said. “His Holiness feels that other options have to be considered, and this will be done at the meeting in November.”

“The only non-negotiable aspect is that the movement will still be non-violent. Everyone is agreed on that,” Taklha told AFP. The Dalai Lama has long championed a “middle path” policy with China which espouses “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet, rather than the complete independence that many younger, more radical activists advocate.

November’s meeting in Dharamshala, India, constitutes the gathering of the exiled Tibetan community’s main consultative body. The meeting can adopt proposals that would still require approval by the exile government to become official policy. Samdhong Rinpoche, the exile government’s prime minister, acknowledged that there was “growing frustration” with the lack of progress in talks with Beijing, and said the possibility of shifting towards a pro-independence policy was sure to be discussed. “I think people will raise this question,” he told AFP. “No one can stop it.”

Rinpoche said whatever the outcome of the meeting, the movement would remain peaceful. “We cannot compromise on that,” Rinpoche said. “A shift from non-violence is absolutely impossible as long as His Holiness is leader.”

Calls for the Dalai Lama to take a harder line with Beijing have grown in the wake of a this year’s harsh Chinese crackdown in Tibet. Exiles such as Tsewang Rigzin, president of the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress, believe the repression has reached a level that demands a change in strategy. “We are at a crossroads,” Rigzin said. “We are not saying that the (middle path) policy is bad, but it’s one where China’s decision is a major factor and that’s why it hasn’t been successful. We still believe independence is the only solution and we would want to present (in November) a proposal based on our stand of independence.”

An eighth rounds of talks with Chinese officials is scheduled for later this week. “Whatever happens we have to keep the door to dialogue open,” said Taklha, who firmly rejected reports that the 73-year-old Dalai Lama was going into retirement. (AFP, BBC, Oct. 27)

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