9th round of Sino-Tibetan dialogue

Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kasur Lodi Gyari, with Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen during their meeting with Vice Chairman of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Du Qinglin during their meeting on 30 January 2010 afternoon. (DIIR/CTA)

The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the strong and detailed statement issued today by Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and chief interlocutor with Chinese officials during nine rounds of dialogue since 2002. Lodi Gyari and envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen briefed the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India this morning before issuing the statement which concluded that “we do not see any reason why we cannot find common ground on these issues.” The statement included a proposal for “a common effort to study the actual reality on the ground, in the spirit of seeking truth from facts [to] help both the sides to move beyond each others’ contentions” and an appeal to Beijing to stop mislabeling the Dalai Lama as a “separatist.”

“Those long troubled by the situation in Tibet, both inside and outside of government, have been looking for ways to work constructively with the Chinese and Tibetans to secure an end to repression, genuine stability and a better way forward in Tibet. According to the Tibetan statement, this 9th round has produced some elements to build on,” said Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet. “The reference to common ground is an encouraging result from this round of dialogue, and both sides have identified stability as a goal, although they diverge on the means to achieve it. This is an opportunity for world leaders to be constructive and help the parties identify a common goal for the talks as a path to achieving the resolution of differences that the international community supports and seeks.”

In line with the Chinese government’s strident approach, Zhu Weiqun, Executive Vice Chairman of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party and one of the envoys’ counterparts in the dialogue, told press today in Beijing that there was no possibility of the “slightest compromise” on the issue of sovereignty in Tibet and said that the two sides were still “sharply divided.” Zhu also warned that if US President Obama “chooses to meet with the Dalai Lama at this time, it will certainly threaten trust and co-operation between China and the United States.” (BBC, China warns Obama not to meet Dalai Lama) The White House has confirmed that President Obama will meet the Dalai Lama, although it has not yet announced a date.

9th round of Sino-Tibetan dialouge

Special Envoy Kasur Lodi Gyari (c) and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen (R), addresses to the media in Dharamsala today on the latest round of discussions on Tibet with the representatives of the Chinese government. Secretary for Information Thubten Samphel (L) read out the statement by the special envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. (DIIR/CTA)

The Chinese government has lately come to describe Tibet as a “core issue” of national sovereignty, and it has responded to the Dalai Lama’s proposal for genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China as “disguised independence.” But the Dalai Lama’s proposition would not challenge Chinese sovereignty or claim as “Tibetan” or “autonomous” any territory beyond that which the government has already designated as “Tibetan autonomous” (the Tibet Autonomous Region and parts of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces, roughly equivalent to the geography of the Tibetan plateau).

In today’s statement, Lodi Gyari said that the talks included a briefing on the Fifth Tibet Work Forum, a top-level strategy meeting that concluded in Beijing in the week before the envoys arrived in China. The envoys in turn welcomed indications from the proceedings that the authorities were seeking to improve the lives of Tibetans, particularly those in rural areas, and that the meeting covered the issue of development in all Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China, including those Tibetan areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. The envoys said: “If we take away the political slogans, many of the issues that have been prioritized by the Forum are similar to the basic needs of the Tibetan people outlined in our Memorandum [on Genuine Autonomy].”

“China continues to demonstrate by meeting with the Dalai Lama’s envoys and their menacing remarks aimed at Washington that the Tibet issue ranks very high in Chinese diplomacy. A failed strategy in Tibet is a problem for China, and they know it. The bottom line is that the Tibetans are the key stakeholders and that means that the direct involvement of the Dalai Lama, whose legitimacy among the Tibetan people is indisputable, is essential for a peaceful and stable solution,” Markey concluded.