Tibet envoy hints at China thaw
By Adam Brookes BBC Beijing correspondent Monday, 30 September, 2002,

An envoy of the Dalai Lama says direct contact between the exiled Tibetan leader and the Chinese Government has been re-established.

The envoy, Lodi Gyari, has just completed a three-week visit to China and in an optimistic statement summing up the trip, he said he had made every effort to open a new chapter in the relationship.

Formal contact between Beijing and the Dalai Lama was severed in 1993.

The statement is the latest evidence that a thaw is underway.

Lodi Gyari has just returned from a visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Tibet, the first of its kind in 20 years.


He said he had had frank and cordial talks. He said direct contact was now re-established between the Chinese leadership and the Dalai Lama, and that Chinese officials had shown much greater flexibility than before.

He said the Chinese side had shown keen interest in the Dalai Lama's proposals for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama is calling for autonomy for Tibet inside China's borders.

But Beijing usually accuses him of seeking outright independence for Tibet.

Importantly, Lodi Gyari's statement made no mention of repression in Tibet, or of human rights abuses there by Chinese security forces.

Its optimistic tone suggests that fresh dialogue on the future of Tibet and its people is in the works.

Dalai Lama envoys report home
By Jeremy Page

BEIJING, September 26, 2002 (Reuters) - Two envoys from the Dalai Lama have returned to India after a landmark visit to Tibet, the first

by a delegation from its exiled Buddhist spiritual leader since 1985, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama says.

Special envoy in Washington Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari and envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen would brief the Dalai Lama on Saturday on the trip which also marked the first direct contact with the Chinese government since 1993, Tenzin Taklha told Reuters.

"They will get here tomorrow morning," Taklha said from the north Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama has run his government in exile since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after an uprising against Chinese rule.

"They probably have arrived now in New Delhi," he said. "We're not going to be able to say much until the delegation returns, they report to His Holiness and then maybe we'll have something to say."

But he said the 16-day trip was a positive step and the Dalai Lama, 67, would like to make a pilgrimage to the Buddhist site of Wutaishan in northern Chinese province of Shanxi.

Beijing has played down the trip as a private visit and said its policy on the Dalai Lama had not changed.

But analysts and diplomats say the visit reflects a slight softening in Beijing's position as it tests the waters for some kind of political solution and tries to improve its image overseas, especially in the United States.

The envoys visited Tibet's capital, Lhasa, its second city, Shigatse, and eastern parts of Tibet known as Kham, Taklha said.

They also went to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province which borders eastern Tibet, he added.


Beijing, which imposed Communist rule on Tibet after its troops entered in 1950, established direct contacts with the Dalai Lama in 1979 and allowed him to send representatives on four fact-finding missions, the last of which was in 1985.

But it suspended official dialogue, mostly through the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, in 1993 and has maintained only sporadic and unofficial contacts until now.

In Lhasa, the envoys met Tibet's government chief Legqog, although he insisted he did not know they were representatives of the Dalai Lama, a Chinese official has told Reuters.

China has also repeated its long-standing demands that the Dalai Lama abandon what Beijing says is an independence movement and recognise Tibet and Taiwan as parts of China before talks on his future can begin.

The Dalai Lama says he wants real autonomy, not independence, for Tibet, but has not met China's other demands. Analysts say he would anger Tibetans by renouncing historical claims to statehood.

Nevertheless, some analysts say both sides are looking for a compromise as they fear Tibetans in exile could become more radical, even violent, after the Dalai Lama dies.

"Just by them visiting Tibet, I think that was a positive step," Taklha said. "His Holiness has always felt that it's important to have face-to-face contact with the Chinese, so I think this visit was a step in that direction."

He declined to comment on further contacts with Beijing but said the Dalai Lama was still interested in visiting Wutaishan.

"His Hoiness has always had a special connection to this place and so His Holiness expressed an interest in 1985 in making a pilgrimage there," Taklha said.

"His Holiness still has that wish."

The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace prize for his non-violent campaign against Chinese rule, is still revered by most Tibetans inside the Himalayan region despite repeated campaigns to stamp out loyalty to him.

He has accused Beijing of widespread human rights abuses and swamping Tibet with ethnic Chinese to destroy Tibetan culture.