Dalai Lama warns delegates of failure
By SAM DOLNICK,Associated Press Writer AP - Monday, November 24
DHARMSALA, India - The Dalai Lama warned Tibetan exile leaders Sunday to be prudent in their plans or risk failure, after they said at a key conference they might push for independence for their homeland if China refuses to grant it autonomy soon.
The delegates ended their weeklong conference Saturday saying they had decided against seeking independence for now, and that they would maintain the Dalai Lama's "middle way" _ his push for autonomy through measured compromise that falls short of calling for independence.
But they also said they would push for independence if China fails to respond positively to their initiatives.
"The next 20 years, if we are not careful, if we are not prudent in our plans there is a great danger," the Dalai Lama said in an address to the exiled Tibetans on Sunday. "It could lead to the danger of failure."
While the Buddhist spiritual leader did not specify what he meant, he appeared to be speaking about the larger Tibetan cause, which many exile leaders believe is at a major crossroads.
The Dalai Lama was speaking to the more than 500 delegates from around the world who had gathered to discuss the way forward for the Tibetan movement.
The 73-year-old spiritual leader did not explain his comments when he addressed reporters later Sunday, saying only that the week's meeting should not be viewed as final and that at least one more meeting of Tibetan leaders was likely in the next few weeks.
He suggested that the meeting may be held abroad but gave no details.
He also reiterated that he would remain the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.
"Till my death I committed. No idea of retirement," he said.
He has been saying since the early 1990s that he would only consider stepping away from his role as spiritual leader when Tibet has more freedom.
"With certain degree of freedom when we return, then I will hand over all my legitimate authority," he said.
But he reiterated that he is semiretired as a political leader, as he has said several times before.
"All major decisions are in his hand," he said, pointing to Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile. "I am like senior adviser."
Dolma Gyari, deputy speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, told reporters after the meeting Saturday that delegates reaffirmed support for the Dalai Lama's approach _ but also said it is time to end talks with Beijing.
"Looking at the doings of China in recent times, we will not send the envoys for further contact," Gyari said.
But the leaders also vowed that if moderation doesn't produce results soon, they will call for independence _ a dramatic break with a decades-long conciliatory approach to Beijing.
"If China does not respond positively to our initiative, there is no other option left for us than to go for independence," Gyari said.
She did not mention a specific time frame, and took no questions.
The Dalai Lama told the delegates Sunday that "My trust in Chinese officials is becoming thinner but my trust in the Chinese public is still alive and strong."
He said there was a need for a "dialogue with the Chinese people" and suggested the possibility of bypassing the Chinese government and talking directly to the Chinese people but gave few details about how that would be achieved.
Any kind of direct access to the vast majority of Chinese people would be a near impossibility for the Tibetan leader.
The decisions by the 581 exile leaders who attended the meeting are only recommendations for the Tibetan parliament, which is to meet in March.
The Dalai Lama called the meeting in Dharmsala, the north Indian mountain town where has lived since fleeing Tibet following a failed rebellion in 1959.
He summoned the exile leaders after publicly expressing frustration over the failure of his approach to yield results with China's government, but he declined to discuss his preference for future strategy, saying he did not want to sway the debate.
China says Tibet has been Chinese territory for 700 years, though many Tibetans argue it was effectively independent most of that time.
Since Communist troops swept into Tibet in 1950, Chinese authorities have crushed any sign of Tibetan nationalist sentiment. An independence movement would be nearly impossible, at least in the foreseeable future, and China has long made clear it will not accept autonomy for Tibet.
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