Can Discuss Dalai's Future But No Autonomy to Tibet: China

K J M Varma, Beijing
Can Discuss Dalai's Future But No Autonomy to Tibet: China

China today said it is open to holding talks with a personal envoy of the Dalai Lama about the future of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader but ruled out any "independence or semi-independence under disguise" for the restive Himalayan region.

Beijing also denounced Prime Minister of Tibet's government-in-exile in Dharamsala, Lobsang Sangay as an "out-and-out separatist".

"The door for contact is open but I want to stress that we only talk with personal envoy of Dalai (Lama) and we will only talk about the future of Dalai not anything about Tibet," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a briefing here.

Hong was replying to a question on the 'Middle Way Approach' suggested by Sangay calling for genuine autonomy to resolve the vexed Tibet issue during his press interaction at Dharamsala yesterday.

"What Dalai should do is to discard his position of separating Tibet from China and halting all such separatist activities, much with his actions and win the trust of the Chinese government and the Chinese people," Hong said.

"The Middle Way proposed by Dalai in nature is seeking for independence under disguise. Our position on this issue is clear, we will not allow any independence or semi-independence under disguise and our policies in having contact with Dalai are consistent and clear," Hong said.

His comments came days ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to India to establish contacts with the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

During his two-day visit starting on June 8, Wang is expected to meet Modi besides holding talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Hong in his press briefing today, declined to recognise Sangay's leadership.

"The man you have mentioned is an out-and-out separatist. He is the so-called the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile," Hong said.

"Nothing he has done so far is beneficial to the Tibetan area and this so called government-in-exile is against Chinese law. It is well organised with its own agenda to separate Tibet from China and no country in the world has recognised such a government," he said.

China which held talks with Dalai Lama's representatives in the past halted the dialogue after 2010. So far the two sides have held nine rounds of talks.

Despite Dalai Lama's assertions that he advocated only autonomy not independence of Tibet, China maintained that his call for broader autonomy barring defence and foreign affairs amounted to independence.

Observers say that China's willingness to hold talks about the Dalai Lama's future marked a subtle change of stand, but it is not clear whether it meant that Beijing is open for the return of the 78-year-old spiritual leader to Tibet, which he left in 1959, or that China may be looking at the issue of his succession.

Chinese officials argue that the Dalai Lama, who is revered as a walking God by the six million Tibetans in Himalayan region, cannot nominate his successor while he maintained that China has no say on the matter.

China in the past maintained that the appointment of his successor through traditional reincarnation process goes against Chinese legal system and that the title is to be endorsed by the Chinese leadership.

Beijing tried choosing the Panchen Lama, regarded as the second highest spiritual leader, but the young Lama so far has not made a mark in Tibet despite official patronage.

The return of the Dalai Lama is an emotive issue in Tibet. About 130 Tibetans have committed self-immolation in the Himalayan region in the last few years calling for his return from exile.

The Dalai Lama said in the past that he will decide on the successor issue when he is about 90 years of age, on whether he will be reincarnated. Traditionally, Tibetan monks identify a boy who shows signs he is a reincarnation of a late leader.

The Nobel laureate even hinted that his successor could be a woman, which if it happens will be for the first time in the long chain of Dalai Lamas.

The Dalai Lama formally stepped down as the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile in 2011 after which the Harvard-trained scholar Sangay was elected as the new political leader.

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