The statement was published as the lead item on Xinhua’s Chinese language home page, signaling that it was intended for a domestic as well as an international audience. It also reiterated a trilogy of demands that Beijing has adopted in reaction to the current crisis in Tibet and the international response to the Olympic torch relay — that the Dalai Lama must cease activities “aimed at splitting China”, “plotting violence”, and “disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympics Games”.
The offer of contact is not consistent with the Chinese government’s hard-line position and rhetoric against the Dalai Lama over the past few weeks and coincides with high-level political engagement by several governments with China on the Tibet issue, including the visit of the President of the EU-Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, who held talks with Premier Wen Jiabao today and planned to raise EU concern over Tibet.
“It’s too early to tell if the meeting will produce results or is just for PR purposes in advance of the Olympics,” said Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet. “The immediate significance of this development is that it shows government advocacy has an impact. Governments who have called for a positive Chinese response on Tibet must continue to bear some responsibility for the outcome.”
The Tibetan Prime Minister, the Kalon Tripa, noted the move from Beijing in a statement from Dharamsala today, saying: “We feel it will require normalcy in the situation in the Tibetan areas for the formal resumption of the talks and we are committed to take all steps, including informal meetings, to continue in bringing about this. It is our position that for any meeting to be productive it is important for the Chinese leadership to understand the reality and acknowledge the positive role of His Holiness the Dalai Lama rather than indulging in vilification campaign that is even contained in the same Xinhua report.” (Full statement at: www.tibet.net)
The lead Tibetan negotiator during six rounds of dialogue with China, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, told a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington on April 23 that in spite of efforts to engage the Chinese “nothing concrete, just rhetoric”, was coming through existing channels.
The current crisis which started in Lhasa on March 10 and the subsequent crackdown throughout Tibet is accompanied by a ‘patriotic education’ campaign requiring Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama, which is provoking further unrest and despair. Lodi Gyari also stated at the Senate hearing: “We cannot pretend that if our next round of discussions were held now, it would be business as usual given the scale of the crackdown and the fact that protests are continuing almost daily. The present emergency situation must be resolved before we can really talk about the future. However, if both sides are determined to find a solution through genuine engagement – and it is my duty today to assure you that His Holiness remains fully committed to that effort – then, we will find a way. Therefore, we ask of those advising both sides to continue with the dialogue process that they press the Chinese side to provide assurances of their commitment to real and concrete progress.” (ICT report, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Testimony – April 23, 2008)