May 26, 2006

Dalai Lama’s demands are obstacle to talks: China

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - Envoys of the Dalai Lama have raised
demands on Tibetan autonomy and on the region's borders which
China cannot accept, a Chinese government official said on
Friday in comments that shed light on secretive talks.

"During the process of making contacts, the Dalai Lama
raised two big questions. One is Greater Tibet. One is
high-level or real autonomy," Laba Pingcuo, secretary-general
of the China Tibetology Research Center, told reporters.

"The two demands he raised don't match the history of
Tibet," he said of the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in
exile in India.

"The Dalai Lama's demands have set up great obstacles," he
added after the fifth rounds of talks since 2002 which have
produced no concrete results.

The Dalai Lama fled Lhasa in 1959 after a failed uprising
against Chinese rule, nine years after Communist troops invaded
the remote, mountainous area now known as the Tibetan
Autonomous Region.

But parts of the western Chinese provinces of Gansu,
Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan are also home to large ethnic
Tibetan populations and are considered part of a historic, or
cultural, Tibet whose future Laba Pingcuo indicated the Dalai
Lama wanted to open for consideration.

The Dalai Lama has also long advocated a "Middle Way" that
seeks greater autonomy for Tibet, rather than independence, but
Laba Pingcuo said granting more self-rule would be difficult.

"To change the status quo would not be in accordance with
the constitution of People's Republic of China and it would not
be in accordance with the laws on autonomy for minority
peoples," said Laba Pingcuo, a former vice-chairman of the
Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a traitor, but analysts
say it has been committed to the dialogue in part because of
fears that if the 70-year-old dies in exile, he could spark
unrest among Tibetans in China, many of whom regard him as a

Despite his indications that the gulf between the two sides
remained great, Laba Pingcuo said talks were still beneficial.

"Such kind of contact helps relations between the Dalai
Lama and government and helps people in the Dalai Lama group
know the reality of China and Tibet," he said.

China's top religious official was quoted in April as
saying Beijing might approve a visit by the Dalai Lama, and he
himself has said he would like to go, but Laba Pingcuo said he
had no information on whether or when such a trip might happen.