Dalai Lama’s envoys resign over stalled China talks
ANANTH KRISHNAN (The Hindu): The two representatives of exiled Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama in on-going talks with the Chinese government have announced their resignation as of June 1, leaving uncertain the future of the talks that have remained in a stalemate for more than two years.
A statement from Dharamsala on Sunday said the two special envoys, Lodi G. Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, “expressed their utter frustration over the lack of positive response from the Chinese side”.
The envoys said they felt that the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) United Front Work Department, which represents Beijing in the talks, “did not respond positively” to a memorandum submitted in 2008 and a note presented in December 2010 to clarify certain points of difference.
The Dalai Lama’s representatives have held, since 2002, nine rounds of talks with the CPC, most recently in January 2010. Zhu Weiqun, a Vice-Minister of the United Front Work Department, said after the last round the two sides’ positions remained “sharply divided”, particularly over questions of the limits of “genuine autonomy” and migration policies for Tibetan areas.
In their resignation letter, the envoys also pointed to seemingly hardening positions of CPC officials, including Mr. Zhu, as another reason for their decision. “One of the key Chinese interlocutors in the dialogue process even advocated abrogation of minority status as stipulated in the Chinese constitution thereby seeming to remove the basis of autonomy,” the letter said in reference to a recent article by Mr. Zhu. “At this particular time, it is difficult to have substantive dialogue,” the letter concluded.
The statement from Dharamsala said there would be no change from the “Middle Way” approach seeking genuine autonomy – and not outright independence – and adhering to the framework of the Chinese constitution.
Tempa Tsering, a representative of the Dalai Lama, told The Hindu in an interview, “We have made very clear that we still stand by the memorandum and we will be very happy to meet the Chinese at any time, and anywhere.”
“We have made it very clear that we do not demand independence, or separation from China, and we would accept the Chinese constitution and within the framework seek genuine autonomy for the entire area Tibetans are living,” he said. “There is, however, a saying that you cannot clap with one hand,” he added.
The last communication between the two sides was a December 2010 note sent by Dharamsala to Beijing, which sought to clarify points of difference over the memorandum of genuine autonomy submitted in 2008. Chinese officials have said the memorandum amounted to “disguised independence”, particularly pointing to the demand for a central Tibetan administration that would govern matters of education and religion and have some legislative powers for Tibetans living both in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in neighbouring Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, where around half of China’s six million Tibetans live. The area amounts to around one-fourth of China’s total landmass.
While Chinese officials said this demand violated the Constitution, the note argued that the law on regional autonomy “allows for this kind of modification of administrative boundaries if proper procedures are followed”, adding that and “many [former] Chinese leaders, including Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice Premier Chen Yi and Party Secretary Hu Yaobang, supported the consideration of bringing all Tibetan areas under a single administration.”
Chinese officials have also hit out in public statements at reported demands by the Dalai Lama to expel non-Tibetans residing in TAR and the four provinces. An article published by the official website of the TAR government in March said the demands were akin to “building up a Berlin Wall of ethnic segregation and confrontation” and were similar to Nazi policies. The note, however, clarified that the demand was only to “regulate” settlement of those who wanted to move to Tibetan areas, and was not seeking to expel non-Tibetans. Mr. Tsering said there had been no response to the note.