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China says willing to meet Dalai Lama's envoys
Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:41am EDT
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By Lucy Hornby and Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) - Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday China was open to holding more talks with envoys for the Dalai Lama as long as the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader renounces what Beijing describes as separatism.
Wen said China's policies toward Tibet were correct and the region was peaceful and stable, even as security forces enforced a lockdown on ethnic Tibetan regions a year after protests and demonstrations across ethnic Tibetan areas.
Chinese officials and envoys from the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing brands a "splittist," have held previous rounds of talks but little of substance has been achieved.
"This kind of talks can continue. The key is that the Dalai Lama must demonstrate his sincerity so that the talks can achieve substantive results," Wen told his annual news conference at the end of the annual session of the Chinese parliament.
From Dharamsala, the North Indian hill station where the Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered, an aide said the Dalai Lama was "always open to talks."
"Regardless of what the Chinese prime minister said, we have made it very clear that our envoys are ready for any dialogue," Chhime Chhoekyapa told Reuters by telephone.
"Even though last talks were held three months ago, they know each other very well and how to go about it."
The Dalai Lama marked March 10, the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising and his exile, with a speech in India calling for "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet and slammed Beijing, lamenting how his homeland had become a "hell on earth" thanks to the Chinese.
The Nobel Prize-winning Buddhist monk denies China's charge that he is a separatist and seeks instead a "middle way."
Wen appeared to create leeway for repairing relations with France by suggesting it was the prominence of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama last year, when Sarkozy held the rotating EU presidency, that riled China.
"The problems that have arisen between China and France arose mainly because the French leader met the Dalai Lama in a prominent way," Wen said. China had previously objected to the fact that the two met.
"This not only involved the core interests of China, it also seriously harmed the feelings of the Chinese people."
The Tibetan cause is popular in France and throughout Europe, and hundreds of Tibetan flags flew from town halls and ministry buildings on March 10. A Tibetan flag hung from city hall in Paris was torn down by two Chinese nationals, Chinese media said.
Wen accused Western countries of "exploiting" the Dalai Lama, whom he described as a political exile rather than a religious figure. Continued...
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