Beijing hopes Tibetan leader will alter stance

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 December, 2008, 12:00am

Beijing hopes that the Dalai Lama will return to a 'patriotic stand', according to a senior mainland official in Washington on Tuesday.

The vice-minister of the United Front Works Department and an ethnic Tibetan, Sita, said Beijing's attitude towards the exiled Tibetan leader had been consistent during the last round of talks with the two personal envoys of the Dalai Lama at the beginning of November.

He said that Beijing still held hopes that the Dalai Lama would abandon his separatist stand, and adopt a patriotic one, according to the Central News Agency. He said that the central government had sufficient patience to wait for that.

Mr Sita said that attempts by any country to use the Tibet issue to interfere in China's affairs would backfire. External pressure would only damage the relationship between the Dalai Lama and Beijing, further distancing him from his mother country, and would bring no benefits, he said, according to Xinhua.

The United Front Work Department held a rare press conference after its representatives last met the Dalai Lama's envoys, blankly rejecting the spiritual leader's 'middle way' and calling it a covert call for independence. This prompted speculation that the intermittent talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing had reached an impasse.

But some experts said Mr Sita's comments suggested a softening of tone despite the usual rhetoric.

'I think Sita's comments primarily targeted the Dalai Lama, suggesting perhaps an attempt to delineate the Dalai Lama from his more radical counterparts after the meeting in Dharamsala,' said Zhang Xiaojing of the Centre for European Studies at Renmin University.

A meeting of Tibetan exiles was held in Dharamsala, India, in mid-November. They confirmed their support for the Dalai Lama's approach to talks with Beijing.

Hong Kong-based Tibet expert Barry Sautman said the comments were 'a signal China does not want to pull off all contacts with the Dalai Lama and is willing to continue contact in some form'. Therefore criticism from the international community would be misdirected, he said.