Dalai Lama's Envoy: China Talks Deal with Substantive Issues, Encounter Obstacle

February 25, 2006

The Tibetan government-in-exile released a statement on February 25 from Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's Special Envoy, about the fifth round of dialogue with Chinese officials. Lodi Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen, accompanied by two senior staff, visited China from February 15 to 23. The envoys did not travel this time to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or one of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures (TAPs) in other provinces, in contrast to their three previous visits. Special Envoy Gyari described these visits in statements released in September 2002, May-June 2003, and September 2004. During the February visit, as a result of their expressed interest in seeing "the situation" in another of China's five provincial-level ethnic autonomous regions, the envoys visited the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (For more information about China's system of ethnic autonomy, see Chapter III, Section 6 of China's Constitution, China's Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law (REAL), Provisions on Implementing the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law, and Section III(a) - "China's Minorities and Government Implementation of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law," in the CECC 2005 Annual Report.)

The envoys met in Guilin on February 22 with Zhu Weiqun, the deputy head of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). "We dealt with substantive issues," Gyari said in his statement. "As a result, today there is a better and deeper understanding of each other's position and the fundamental differences that continue to exist in the position held by the two parties." Following the fourth round of dialogue in Bern, Switzerland, in late June and early July 2005, Gyari also spoke favorably, saying in a statement released by the Tibetan government-in-exile that the talks were "concrete and substantive."

Gyari drew attention to the fundamental differences in outlook affecting the dialogue, saying in the February 25 statement, "This round of discussion also made it clear that there is a major difference even in the approach in addressing the issue." He did not disclose the nature of the obstacle. After the 2005 Bern round, Tibetan-government-in-exile official Thubten Samphel said in July that the most fundamental difference is over "the definition of Tibet," according to a report by the Associated Press (reprinted on the Web site of Phayul.com). "While China sees Tibet as the area included under the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Tibetans claim a much larger area where the culture and language are Tibetan," Samphel said.

See Section VI - "Tibet," The Status of Discussion Between China and the Dalai Lama, of the CECC 2005 Annual Report for more information.