The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile government announced today the September 12, 2004 departure to China from India of the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lodi Gyari, his colleague Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and two senior assistants.

“The potential of this third visit is significant. Those who follow this process closely will be looking for indications that the Chinese government is ready to change its hard-line approach and address serious substantive issues through dialogue,” said Mary Beth Markey, ICT Executive Director.

Contact was re-established between the Tibetans and Chinese two years ago in September 2002 and a second visit to China and Tibet occurred in May-June of 2003. Tibetans have characterized the nature of these two visits as “confidence-building” opportunities.

The United States government has repeatedly called for substantive discussions between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives. According to the 2004 “Report on Tibet Negotiations” issued in June by the State Department on behalf of the White House:

“Encouraging substantive dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama is an important objective of this Administration. The United States encourages China and the Dalai Lama to hold substantive discussions aimed at resolution of differences at an early date, without preconditions. We have consistently asserted that any questions surrounding Tibet and its relationship to Chinese authorities should be resolved by direct dialogue between the Tibetans and the Chinese. The Administration believes that dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives will alleviate tensions in Tibetan regions of China.”

The Dalai Lama has adopted what he describes as a middle way approach and seeks genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the People’s Republic of China.

“China’s concern for unity and stability and the Dalai Lama’s commitment to peaceful coexistence and genuine autonomy establish the foundation on which a solution could be built,” said Markey.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, after an uneasy arrangement between the Chinese and Tibetan governments broke down and culminated in a popular uprising in Lhasa. Beijing continues to violate the human rights of Tibetans and to withhold from them the right to live according to their own traditions and aspirations.

“After all this time, there seems to be the possibility of progress. Considering Beijing’s timeline for exhibiting itself as a world leader at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, initial steps must be taken now to reach a solution for Tibet,” Markey concluded.

ICT urges the United States and other governments to continue to support the widespread desire among Tibetans for a negotiated solution.