By John Ruwitch, Reuters
SHENZHEN, China — Envoys of the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials agreed to further contact during a day of talks aimed at mending fences following a wave of unrest that pushed Tibet to center stage ahead of the 2008 Olympics.
The closed-door meeting on Sunday in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, was the first since an anti-Beijing riot in Lhasa and unrest rocked Tibet and nearby areas in March.
“They (the envoys) have completed their discussion,” Thubten Samphel, secretary of the Department of Information of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, told Reuters.
“Professor Samdhong Rimpoche described the dialogue as going very well,” he said, referring to the prime minister of the self-proclaimed government-in-exile.
The Tibetan riots and protests, which China blames on the Dalai Lama, were the most serious challenge to Chinese rule in the mountainous region for nearly two decades.
They prompted anti-China protests that disrupted the international leg of the Olympic torch relay and led to calls to boycott August’s Beijing Games, which in turn triggered counter-protests by Chinese fiercely proud of holding the Games.
“Chinese central government officials and the private representatives of the 14th Dalai Lama agreed to hold another round of contact at an appropriate time,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said.
On Monday there were more protests by pro-Tibetan activists in the Nepal capital, Kathmandu, and police detained at least 125 people as demonstrators tried to storm the Chinese embassy.
“China thief leave the country,” the protesters, some of them monks, shouted in Nepali. “Stop killing in Tibet…. free Tibet,” they demanded.
State media quoted the Chinese officials attending the talks as saying the unrest added new “obstacles”, a sign that contact between the two sides, already fraught with mistrust, was likely to get even more difficult.
China proposed the talks last month after Western governments urged it to open new dialogue with the Dalai Lama, who says he wants a high level of autonomy, not independence, for the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan homeland he fled in 1959.
Xinhua quoted unnamed sources as saying Sunday’s meeting was arranged at the government-in-exile’s repeated request for contacts and consultations with the central government.