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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Step up to plate, Dalai Lama envoy tells Japan


Staff writer

Japan should have the courage to play a constructive role in realizing a mutually acceptable solution with China for Tibetan autonomy, an envoy to the Dalai Lama said Wednesday in Tokyo.

Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama's representative in Europe and one of Tibet's negotiators with Beijing, said the Japanese public has shown great support for the Tibetan people and its refugees but its government remains hesitant to take a stand.

As a democratic state, Japan should "reflect the public sentiment of the Japanese population," he said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, adding that the situation in Tibet is an Asian political issue over which Tokyo has a strong influence.

Although the Dalai Lama has not sought independence from China but merely the preservation of Tibetan culture and religion through autonomy, Beijing has labeled him a separatist. China also handed death sentences to Tibetans for allegedly instigating deadly fires during the anti-China protests held in Lhasa in the runup to the Beijing Olympics last year.

Tibetans are seeing "the harshest wave of repression since the days of the Cultural Revolution," Gyaltsen said. The international community must keep a watchful eye on the Dalai Lama's homeland to act as a restraining influence on the Chinese authorities cracking down on the region, he said.

"Our immediate and foremost concern is opening up Tibet" to the international community and the media, he said.

Regarding negotiations with China, Gyaltsen, who has led eight formal meetings with Beijing, acknowledged that the talks are at a stalemate. But Tibet is making its views known to the world and is making an effort to reach out to the Chinese public.

There can be meetings with Chinese and Tibetan citizens and regular grassroots forums to exchange views and information, he said, adding that the Tibetan government in exile is producing more Chinese translations of its publications for "better understanding by our Chinese brothers and sisters on what Tibet is and how the Tibetans see their own culture."

Gyaltsen said that Tibet also encourages its younger people in exile to study Mandarin and Chinese history to better understand Chinese thinking.



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