Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen

The Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy, Lodi Gyari (right), and Envoy, Kelsang Gyaltsen (left), during a press conference in Dharamsala, India on May 8. (Central Tibetan Administration)

The Dalai Lama’s envoys reported back today on talks with officials from the United Front Work Department in Shenzhen, China, on Sunday [May 4]. Special Envoy Lodi Gyari, speaking to press in Dharamsala, India, after briefing the Dalai Lama, referred to the significance of a comment by Chinese President and Party Secretary Hu Jintao yesterday that “our attitude towards contacts and consultation with the Dalai Lama is serious”. Lodi Gyari said: “It is welcome that the leader of such an important nation stands in front of the world and says that China is serious about the relationship at the highest level. Not only was it a direct comment about the recent meeting that took place, but it was also in the context of a historic press conference [with Japanese PM Yasuo Fukuda].” President Hu’s visit to Tokyo marks the first time in 10 years that a Chinese president has visited Japan, and is widely regarded as an effort to repair strained relations between the two nations. Lodi Gyari added that it was encouraging because many Tibetans as well as many world leaders were skeptical, for good reason, about the dialogue process.

China says the “Dalai Lama clique” was responsible for the wave of protests across the Tibetan Plateau since March 10 and protests internationally over the Olympic torch, which reached the top of Mount Chomolungma (Everest) today. Lodi Gyari said: “We have categorically rejected their position of His Holiness the Dalai Lama having instigated the present crisis. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been supportive of the Olympics; he has taken a position that many Tibetans find uncomfortable. Recent events are symptomatic of several decades of wrong policy by the Chinese government.”

In a statement issued today, Lodi Gyari said that during the talks, which took place in a guesthouse in Shenzhen, “there were strong and divergent views on the nature as well as the causes of the recent tragic events in Tibet. These views were expressed in a frank and candid manner.”

According to the Special Envoy, each side exchanged “concrete proposals which can be part of a future agenda”. He added that a date for the next round of talks would only be announced after it had been agreed with their Chinese counterparts, and that it would be preferable for this to take place sooner rather than later, given the urgent situation on the plateau.

In answer to a question about how international leaders, specifically French President Nicolas Sarkozy, would respond to the news of the resumption of dialogue, Lodi Gyari said: “we know that the President of France is a great friend of China. But as a decent human being he is very disturbed and saddened by the situation [in Tibet]. He has told the Chinese that he would like to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, but that his conscience would not allow him to attend. He talked about how important it is to have normalcy in Tibet and a substantial outcome from dialogue. But those [conditions] have not been met although [the most recent talks] are certainly the right move in the right direction.”

The envoys’ statement is reproduced in full below.

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “Hu Jintao’s comments are significant, but must be set in the context of the brutal crackdown in Tibet, and the closure of Tibet to the outside world. Beyond the anti-Dalai Lama rhetoric, Beijing knows that the international community is challenging its policies on Tibet.”

Statement by Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kasur Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari

Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and I had the honour of briefing His Holiness the Dalai Lama immediately after our arrival yesterday from China. Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, joined us in the briefing. We also briefed the Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Dolma Gyari, this morning. The Speaker, Mr. Karma Choephel, is currently on an official visit.

On 4 May 2008 in Shenzhen, China, we met with Executive Vice Minister Zhu Weiqun and Vice Minister Sithar of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party. We would like to express our appreciation to the hosts for accepting our suggestion to hold this informal meeting in Shenzhen as well as agreeing to a meeting of principals without aides. Executive Vice Minister Zhu Weiqun and Vice Minister Sithar were our counterparts for the last several years. This long relationship made it possible to have open and frank discussions in a friendly and respectful atmosphere, despite the prevailing tense and grave situation in Tibet.

Our main purpose of seeking this urgent informal meeting was to discuss the critical situation in Tibet. There were strong and divergent views on the nature as well as the causes of the recent tragic events in Tibet. These views were expressed in a frank and candid manner. On our part we rejected categorically the accusation made against His Holiness the Dalai Lama of instigating the demonstrations and unrest in Tibet. Instead we made it clear that the events in Tibet are the inescapable consequences of wrong policies of the authorities towards the Tibetans, which goes back several decades. The recent crisis in Tibet is a clear symptom of deeply felt grievances and resentment of the Tibetans with these policies. The task at hand is to address the legitimate concerns of the Tibetan people in a realistic and constructive way.

We have stressed the importance of ending the current repression throughout Tibet. We have called for the release of prisoners, to allow those injured to be given proper medical treatment and give unfettered access to visitors, including the media. We have also called for an end to the “patriotic re-education” campaign which is deeply resented by the Tibetan people.

We also rejected the accusation that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is sabotaging the Olympic Games 2008. On the contrary, we made it clear that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently and unambiguously supported the Beijing Olympic Games right from the beginning.

Despite major differences on important issues both sides demonstrated a willingness to seek common approaches in addressing the issues at hand. In this regard, each side made some concrete proposals, which can be part of the future agenda. As a result an understanding was reached to continue the formal round of discussions. A date for the seventh round will be finalised soon after mutual consultations.

We welcome the recent statement of President Hu Jintao that his government is “serious” about the dialogue and his acknowledging that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is being “conscientious and serious”. This statement is encouraging at a time when there is growing skepticism about China’s sincerity in resolving the Tibet issue through dialogue.

08 May 2008