Chinese officials have resumed talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist spiritual leader. Hopefully the dialogue will be substantive and lead to real progress, so that long-standing issues with regard to Tibet may be resolved.
No agenda was announced for the discussions, the second meeting since March, when peaceful demonstrations in Lhasa erupted into violence, and the first formal dialogue between the two sides in a year. More than one-thousand people were reportedly arrested following the March unrest, and an undetermined number of people killed. Much of the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China were sealed off to tourists, diplomats, journalists and other observers. Despite the easing of unrest, a large paramilitary presence remains in the region and access to the area remains tightly controlled.
China blames the Dalai Lama for instigating unrest in the region, a charge he denies. The Dalai Lama has renounced any form of violence and has asked his Tibetan followers to do the same. He has also said repeatedly that he seeks meaningful autonomy for Tibet and not independence. The aim is to protect Tibetan identity, culture, religion and way of life, Tibetan negotiators say.
The United States continues to be concerned about the situation in Tibet and supports substantive dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Beijing during her recent trip to China, "I hope that there will be some positive developments and some momentum behind the talks."