What Will Come of Talks Between China, Tibetans? Representatives of the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama met Monday in South China for a second day of talks to try to resolve their differences. Foreign governments have been pressuring Beijing to open a dialogue with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader after weeks of riots.

What Will Come of Talks Between China, Tibetans?

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

China's government is talking with representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The meetings came after riots in Tibet. They also came after the Olympic torch encountered a world of pro-Tibet protest on its way to China.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who's been following events from Beijing, joins us now.

And Anthony, have the protests themselves led to these talks?

ANTHONY KUHN: That's clearly a factor in it. But of course this process has been going on for some time. There've been six previous rounds of talks since 2002. On the Tibetan side, most of these talks have been led by the Dalai Lama's special envoys - Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen - and on the Chinese side is an arm of the Communist Party called the United Front Work Department, which is in charge of winning over minorities.

Interestingly, one of the heads of the Chinese delegation is a Tibetan named Sytar(ph), who is the offspring of hereditary Tibetan serfs and some people think may be in favor of engagement with the Dalai Lama's side.

And they're meeting in southern China's Shenzhen city. It's interesting to note that previously they've taken the Tibetan representatives to Tibet, but not this time, given the unrest. And the talks will probably go on for another day or so and then the Tibetans will go back to Dharamsala, India to report to the Dalai Lama.

INSKEEP: What did they discuss, given Chinese anxiety over mentioning anything like Tibetan independence, say?

KUHN: Well, the Tibetans have gone into this saying that they are going to raise their concerns about the heavy-handed crackdown on the unrest in Tibet. From the reports that are coming out of China, the Chinese media right now, we can see that the Chinese are not ready to make any concessions. They're saying that all our policies towards Tibet are correct and that we handled the Lhasa riots in a legal way. They said that the riots have created obstacles for more talks, but the Chinese say they're being sincere and patient in holding these talks, and they've agreed to further talks in the future but no date has been set yet.

INSKEEP: But what I mean is, is the basic framework here that people on both sides have to accept, for purposes of the talks, that Tibet is going to remain part of China and just the question on the table is whether the Tibetans can be treated in a different way or a better way.

KUHN: Yes. I mean, basically the Tibetan side has to go with the Dalai Lama's call for more autonomy and not outright independence. But you know, the details of this is why we've had six rounds of talks and not gotten anywhere. The Dalai Lama wants all of the Tibetan plateau to be one political entity, where right now the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau is split up among four different Chinese provinces. And Chinese argue that eastern Tibet was never entirely under Lhasa's control.

Both sides see the other essentially as insincere, and that's why the talks have not gotten anywhere. And Beijing, for example, cites to the fact that they previously invited the Dalai Lama to come back to China for the funeral of the Panchen Lama in 1989 - that's the second highest cleric in Tibet - and the Dalai Lama didn't come.

INSKEEP: Why do both sides see each other as insincere?

KUHN: Well, basically they have insurmountable differences. They have very conflicting views of Tibet's role in China. While China has, you know, for some time offered to continue talks with the Dalai Lama, they seem to have no interest in his input on their policies towards Tibet, which they see as essentially correct.

And now, you know, Beijing has spent all this energy making the Dalai Lama public enemy number one in the media, so much so that when they begin talks Chinese have been criticizing their own government on the Internet for negotiating with them.

And I think, you know, there are plenty of analysts out there who say that China has no intention of negotiating with the Dalai Lama. They're just waiting to install their own Dalai Lama after the current one dies.

INSKEEP: NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Beijing, where Chinese officials have been talking with representatives of Tibet's Dalai Lama.

Thanks very much.

KUHN: Thanks, Steve.

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