Dalai Lama signals strategy shift with China
DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) — The Dalai Lama has opened the door to a tougher China policy following a complete lack of progress in talks on Tibetan autonomy with Beijing, aides and exiled Tibetan leaders said Monday.
The future course of the Tibetan movement, including the possibility of an historic switch from demanding autonomy to a demand for full independence, will be the focus of a special meeting next month of around 300 delegates representing the worldwide exiled Tibetan community.
"The only non-negotiable aspect is that the movement will still be non-violent. Everyone is agreed on that," the Dalai Lama's spokesman Tenzin Taklha told AFP.
In his first public address since undergoing surgery for gallstones, the Dalai Lama said at the weekend that he had given up on extracting any concessions from Beijing after seven rounds of talks between Tibetan envoys and Chinese officials.
"He's lost hope in trying to reach a solution with the present Chinese leadership which is simply not willing to address the issues," Taklha said.
"His Holiness feels that other options have to be considered, and this will be done at the meeting in November," he said.
The Dalai Lama has long championed a "middle path" policy with China which espouses "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet, rather than the full independence that many younger, more radical activists demand.
November's meeting in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala -- the seat of the Tibetan government in exile -- constitutes the gathering of the exiled Tibetan community's main consultative body.
The meeting can adopt non-binding proposals that would still require the approval of the exiled government in order to become official policy.
Samdhong Rinpoche, the government's current prime minister, acknowledged that there was "growing frustration" with the lack of progress in talks with Beijing, and said the possibility of shifting policy towards full independence was sure to be discussed.
"I think people will raise this question. No one can stop it," he told AFP.
Rinpoche said whatever the outcome of the meeting, the movement would remain non-violent.
"We cannot compromise on that," Rinpoche said. "A shift from non-violence is absolutely impossible as long as His Holiness is leader"
Calls for the Dalai Lama to take a harder line with Beijing have grown in the wake of a heavy Chinese crackdown in Tibet that followed violent protests against Chinese rule across the region in March.
Exiles such as Tsewang Rigzin, president of the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress, believe the repression of Tibetans in their homeland has now reached a level that demands a change in strategy.
"We are at a crossroads," Rigzin said.
"We are not saying that the (middle path) policy is bad, but it's one where China's decision is a major factor and that's why it hasn't been successful," he said.
"We still believe independence is the only solution and we would want to present (in November) a proposal based on our stand of independence."
Tibetan envoys have held seven rounds of talks with Chinese officials and an eighth is scheduled for later this week.
"Whatever happens we have to keep the door to dialogue open," said Taklha, who firmly rejected reports that the 73-year-old Dalai Lama was going into retirement.
The Tibetan leader has been hospitalised twice in the past few months, but his aides say he has now fully recovered.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 following a failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule.
The Chinese government have labelled him a traitor, intent on fomenting violent unrest in Tibet with the ambition of achieving full independence.