Sunday, May 4, 2008

China lashes Dalai

China kept up a barrage of criticism Saturday against the Dalai Lama, even as two of his envoys headed here for talks on the unrest that has overshadowed the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

"They will arrive in China today," said Chhime R. Chhoekyapa, secretary to the Tibetan spiritual leader.

He told AFP the envoys would be meeting Chinese officials "as soon as they arrive" but declined further details, saying only the talks with the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department would take place "somewhere in China."

The Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala, said earlier that the envoys, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, had arrived in Hong Kong en route to mainland China.

Chinese state media Saturday carried no reference to the much-anticipated meetings, instead warning against the "Dalai clique," a loosely defined term referring to people close to him.

"As long as the Dalai clique still exists, our struggle with the Dalai clique will not stop. We must raise our vigilance and absolutely cannot relax," the Tibet Daily newspaper said.

Beijing's offer last month to reopen dialogue was widely seen as a response to global pressure over China's crackdown on unrest in Tibet.

Protests against the March crackdown have targeted the Olympic torch relay on its worldwide journey, particularly in London and Paris, angering Beijing and provoking anti-Western sentiment among Chinese.

"During this brief visit, the envoys will take up the urgent issue of the current crisis in the Tibetan areas," Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, said Friday.

"The envoys will raise the issue of moving forward on the process for a mutually satisfactory solution to the Tibetan issue."

Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche revealed last week his government had been in touch with the Chinese authorities on ways to resolve the crisis in Tibet.

However, the forthcoming meetings would be the first reported face-to-face contacts between the two sides since unrest erupted in Tibet on March 10 and triggered a Chinese crackdown.

Amid intense interest, exiled Tibetan leaders have sought to play down any expectations, saying the talks were not even on a par with six earlier rounds of dialogue that started in late 2002 and broke off in 2007.

"It is not the seventh round of talks," Rinpoche said earlier. "It is only an informal consultation."

Details of the talks, including time and location, have not been released by either side.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama's office in Dharamshala said the talks were unlikely to be held in Beijing but refused to say more. Chinese officials were not available Saturday for comment.

However, state media continued their attacks on the Dalai Lama, quoting a member of Tibet's People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body, as saying he was targeting the Olympics.

"The Dalai clique's fond dream of 'Tibet independence' and its dangerous plan of sabotaging Tibet's economy and the Beijing Olympics will be shattered," Tibet Daily quoted the member saying.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says 203 people were killed and some 1,000 hurt in the unrest and crackdown.

At least 5,715 people have been arrested since the protests began, according to figures, which the government says have been extensively cross-checked.

China said 20 people had been killed by Tibetan rioters until Monday, when state media for the first time said police shot dead a Tibetan pro-independence "insurgent".

Chinese troops invaded Tibet in 1950 and officially annexed the region a year later. The Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland following a 1959 uprising, has repeatedly accused China of widespread rights violations there.

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