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Envoy fears for Tibet when Dalai Lama dies

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Dec 5: The Dalai Lama's top envoy, in rare remarks on a dialogue process with China, has warned of potential instability unless the issue of Tibet is resolved within the lifetime of the 71-year-old spiritual leader.

Lodi Gyari also stressed the Dalai Lama's commitment to greater autonomy within China, rather than independence, but said that in return the Chinese government should redraw provincial borders to unite ethnic Tibetans in one region.

''The Chinese government has redrawn internal boundaries when it has suited its needs and could do so again in the case of Tibet to foster stability and to help ensure Tibet's characteristics remain intact,'' he said in a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

''... The Tibetan people, too, yearn to be under one Administrative entity so that their way of life, tradition and religion can be more effectively and peacefully maintained.'' A transcript of his November. 14 remarks -- the first in depth account of the China-Tibet dialogue -- was posted on the institute's Web site (www.brookings.edu).

About half of China's Tibetans live in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the remote, mountainous area the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule.

The remainder live in parts of the western Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan, which are considered part of a historical, or cultural, Tibet.

Uniting Tibetans in those regions was not an effort to create a ''greater Tibet'' or a cover for a separatist plot, Lodi Gyari said, but stemmed from a desire to restore the integrity of Tibetans as a distinct nationality within China.

ANGER ON THE BOIL Five rounds of dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama's envoys have been shrouded in secrecy since they began in 2002, but Lodi Gyari said since Chinese officials are speaking more frankly about the talks, the Tibetan view should also be heard. No breakthroughs have been made in the dialogue between the envoys of the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala, and China's United Front Work Department, but the talks themselves were an achievement, Lodi Gyari said.

But he warned that the window for resolving the issue could close with the death of the Dalai Lama.

''Some detractors in the Chinese Government seem to believe that the aspirations of the Tibetan people will fizzle out once the Dalai Lama passes away. This is a most dangerous and myopic approach,'' he said.

''In the absence of the Dalai Lama, there is no way that the entire population would be able to contain their resentment and anger. And it only takes a few desperate individuals or groups to create major instability. This is not a threat, but a statement of fact.'' Some Tibetans in exile, particularly in the Tibetan Youth Congress, have expressed frustration with the Dalai Lama's ''Middle Way'', and call for a harder line.

Lodi Gyari said China's lack of trust in the Dalai Lama, who Beijing brands a separatist and traitor, was ''one of the most critical obstacles'' to the dialogue, and repeated that the man revered by Tibetans as a god-king was sincere.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibet government in exile, said there had been no official response from China to Lodi Gyari's remarks, nor to the Dalai Lama's long-standing request to visit China.

China's Foreign Ministry and the State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on the speech.


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