Hundreds of exiled Tibetans have begun a landmark meeting in Dharamsala, the seat of Tibet’s government in exile (photo, from cnn.com), in order to discuss their homeland’s future with China.
The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, called the meeting, amid frustrations over repeated failed talks with the Chinese government, saying that new ideas were necessary.
The aim of the gathering in northern India is to re-evaluate the so-called “middle path” policy with China that espouses “meaningful autonomy” for the Himalayan region.
Last week, the third round of talks since violent anti-China protests rocked Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in March, failed because of “a great divergence” between the two sides over China’s policy on Tibet, said Chinese officials.
Earlier, a Chinese government spokesman dismissed the gathering, saying that such “separatist attempts will get nowhere”.
China has rejected a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their needs of autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution, said the Dalai Lama’s envoys to the Beijing talks on Sunday.
The Dalai Lama urged the 500 participants to consider all aspects of policy regarding China before Monday’s meeting. He ensured that the thorny issue of whether to push for full independence is tackled.
The 73-year-old Nobel Peace laureate will not be attending the meeting, said Tibetan officials, trying to ensure that any decisions are independent of his own views.
While Beijing says the Himalayan region has been part of its territory for centuries, many Tibetans say there were an independent nation before communist troops invaded in 1950.
And now, some younger Tibetan exiles are willing to use a more aggressive pro-independence stance, instead of the Dalai Lama’s campaign for “meaningful autonomy”.
“We certainly hope the cause of independence for Tibet is stronger by the end of the week”, said Tsewang Rigzin, president of the influential Tibetan Youth Congress.
“I was a bit surprised when the Dalai Lama called this meeting”, he told AFP. “But it was high time. As he says, he has done everything in his power and not made progress.”
The meeting in the Indian hill town, which has no policy-making power because any recommendations must be approved by the exiled Tibetan parliament, comes as the Tibetan movement braces for change.
According to the government-in-exile, the March crackdown on anti-Chinese protests in Lhasa left 200 Tibetans dead. Some Tibetans have cited the event as proof that a new, more radical strategy is needed.
Tenzin Bayul, one of the delegates gathered in Dharamsala, said she felt it was a moment of historic importance.
“Non-violence is central to our culture, but frustration is strong among young Tibetans and people get very angry about the lack of success”, said the young activist studying at Tufts University in Boston.
“This situation has gone on for so long, and the Dalai Lama is tired.”