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Tough language on Tibet despite China talks offer

XIJIN, China (Reuters) - Chinese media kept up its tough language on the Dalai Lama on Saturday, a day after a surprise offer of talks with his envoys, as analysts expressed caution about whether dialogue would ease tensions in Tibet.

A pro-Tibet supporter holding pictures of Tibetan spritual leader the Dalai Lama shouts slogans during the Olympic torch relay in Nagano, central Japan April 26, 2008. Chinese media kept up its tough language on the Dalai Lama on Saturday, a day after a surprise offer of talks with his envoys, as analysts expressed caution about whether dialogue would ease tensions in Tibet. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

China blames the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, for a wave of anti-government unrest throughout its Tibetan areas, and has vilified him as a separatist bent on independence for Tibet and disrupting the Beijing Olympics.

“It’s too early to tell if the meeting will produce results or is just for PR purposes in advance of the Olympics,” Mary Beth Markey, a vice-president at the International Campaign for Tibet, said in a statement.

In the report announcing the offer of talks, China’s official Xinhua news agency softened its language, referring to the Dalai “side”, rather than the Dalai “clique”, and rather than demanding he “stop splittist activities” as a precondition, said he must take credible moves to do so.

Asked his opinion on a meeting or talks, the Dalai Lama was guarded.

“It depends what kind of talks. If (they are) serious talks, most welcome. Just mere seeing face to face, not much meaning,” he told Reuters Television on arrival at Delhi airport on Saturday.

Despite the subtle changes in tone, China’s state media on Saturday kept up their condemnation of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule.

The People’s Daily, the voice of the Communist Party, carried news of the dialogue offer alongside a separate story that said the Dalai Lama was unfit as a Buddhist leader.

“The behavior of the Dalai clique has seriously violated fundamental teaching and commandments of Buddhism, undermined the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism and ruined its reputation,” the newspaper said.

The Tibet Daily similarly quoted an official repeating China’s position that the Dalai Lama was responsible for the series of protests and was behind a deadly riot on March 14 in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, charges the Dalai Lama has denied.

“The splittist Dalai clique is the main source of influence over Tibet’s stability. It is the biggest hidden trouble in the stable development of Tibet; we vow to carry out a resolute struggle!” the report said.


Tibet’s government-in-exile, which says the Dalai Lama sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao as early as March 19 offering to send representatives to help calm the situation in Tibet, said it was committed to dialogue.

But in a statement from its base in Dharamsala, India, it said the attacks on the Dalai Lama must stop.

“It is our position that for any meeting to be productive, it is important for the Chinese leadership to understand the reality and acknowledge the positive role of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, rather than indulging in (a) vilification campaign...”

China has poured security personnel into Tibet and ethnic Tibetan parts of western China to curb the protests and launched political campaigns to combat pro-independence sentiment.

On Saturday, a convoy of a dozen military vehicles was seen driving toward Tibet’s second city of Shigatse, though there was no sign of unrest in the area.

Analysts said carrying out crackdowns and offering concessions at the same time was part of China’s strategy.

“All the attacks on him can be seen as pre-negotiation tactics designed in part to bolster domestic nationalism and at the same time to weaken his position in any future talks,” said Robbie Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University.

But, he added, because six rounds of dialogue since 2002 between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys had yielded no discernible results, Beijing had used up much of its political capital on the issue.

“It is hard for people to see good intentions behind Beijing’s moves,” he said.

Writing by Lindsay Beck; Editing by David Fogarty