News Report: Exiled Tibetan Leader Says Talks with PRC Will Be "Specific" and "Decisive"

March 15, 2005

Samdhong Rinpoche, the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said that a fourth round of talks between the Dalai Lama's envoys and Chinese officials would have a "specific agenda" and be "decisive," according to a report by The Telegraph (Calcutta) on March 9, 2005. The comments went farther than those reported in a story filed the same day by the Press Trust of India (PTI).

Samdhong remarked, "The Chinese thought we were seeking consolidation of Tibetan areas and eventually independence," according to The Telegraph. He apparently referred to a formula, embraced by some Tibetans, in which all of the territory in China in which Tibetans live would be combined into a single autonomous area. "Whether the Tibetans then wanted to be governed as one administrative entity or separately," Samdhong said, "is something that can be looked at later."

According to The Telegraph, "representatives of the Dalai Lama’s government" approached Nicholas Haysom and Professor Yash Ghai "to help them negotiate with China." Haysom formerly served as Nelson Mandela’s legal adviser and "played a leading role in negotiating the 2000 Arusha peace accord for Burundi and the recent Naivasha peace agreement for Sudan." Professor Ghai "was associated with the negotiations that gave Hong Kong considerable autonomy after Britain returned it to China in 1997." Neither the Dalai Lama's representatives nor the Tibetan government-in-exile have confirmed the report.

Most of the Tibetans in China live in 13 areas where they are entitled to practice "regional ethnic autonomy," according to the Chinese Constitution and relevant laws. The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is ranked as a province, with Lhasa as its capital; the city was the seat of the Tibetan government before 1959. Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces have ten Tibetan autonomous prefectures and two Tibetan autonomous counties distributed among them. China's 2000 national census counted 5.42 million Tibetans; 45 percent lived in the TAR.

Additional information about the dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government is available in the CECC 2004 Annual Report.