China must take key steps to restore normalcy in Tibet before formal talk

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Chinese state media yesterday issued a statement that Chinese officials would meet the Dalai Lama's representative "in the coming days". The statement was the lead item on both the Chinese and English language version of Xinhua's home page. It said that the Chinese officials would be from "the relevant department" which is presumed to be the United Front Work Department that has already staged six rounds of talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama between 2002 and 2007.

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband welcomed the announcement as "positive", saying it was the first step in the process to address the Tibet issue. The Tibetan government in exile, however, has struck a more cautious note. The Prime Minister of the Government in exile, Professor Samdong Rinpoche, said in a statement yesterday that "it will require normalcy in the situation in the Tibetan areas for the formal resumption of the talks". Samdong Rinpoche's statement pointed to the need for the Chinese leadership to curtail its policy of vilification of the Dalai Lama if any meeting was to be "productive". Such vilification was even maintained in the same Xinhua report: the "Dalai side would make credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China, stop plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games so as to create conditions for talks."

Free Tibet Campaign shares the caution of the Tibetan government in exile. It notes that there is currently no further information about the terms of the invitation and who would represent the Tibetan and Chinese sides. If the meeting were to go ahead, Free Tibet Campaign would regard it not as a resumption of the six rounds of negotiations, but instead as a discussion about the nature of the protests in Tibet since March 10 and the violent crackdown by the Chinese government.

Free Tibet Campaign further considers that the Chinese government must take substantive steps to restore "normalcy" in Tibet and to demonstrate it is prepared to move forward sincerely on the Tibet issue. Such steps would include: withdrawing the Olympic Torch Relay from Tibet which will only provoke further protests and tension; immediate readmission of foreign media into Tibet; admission of UN representatives into Tibet to verify independently what has happened on the ground; the release of all Tibetans detained since March 10; curtailment of the systematic programme of vilification of the Dalai Lama; cessation of the violent crackdown and the withdrawal of the huge deployment of security forces in Tibet.

Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said: "China's vague offer of talks, whilst continuing to peddle its baseless allegations that the Dalai Lama is inciting violence in Tibet, convinces no one that it is sincere in finding a lasting political solution in Tibet. It is impossible to conceive how dialogue can be meaningfully resumed until China removes the huge convoys of troops and trucks sent to Tibet after March 10. Ill-defined offers of talks, whilst continuing to detain thousands of Tibetans arrested after March 10, represents nothing more than window-dressing, designed to deflect criticism of its actions in Tibet in the run-up to the Olympics."

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign


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