Secrecy surrounds China-Tibet talks

Beijing, July 1:

Secrecy surrounded the start of talks today between envoys of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government aimed at easing tensions following anti-government riots that rocked Tibet in March.

The self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile has said two days of talks were to start in China’s capital today, but Chinese officials would not confirm any details such as where the meeting would be held, what the agenda was, or when it would start.

“Officials from the central government authority will have contact with the private representatives of the Dalai Lama, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, adding that he had no other details.

“I hope the relevant dialogue and contact can make positive progress,” he said.

The talks take on particular importance in light of China’s hopes of hosting a flawless Olympic Games. Some experts believe Beijing is agreeing to the discussions to ease criticism ahead of the event, which begins Aug. 8 in the Chinese capital.

Some world leaders have said they might boycott the opening ceremony to protest the Chinese security crackdown in Tibetan areas of China after anti-government riots broke out in March.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said this week he would attend if the latest talks made progress.

Liu said any contact between Chinese officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama was an internal matter.

The talks were confirmed yesterday by Gao Fei, director of the Propaganda Office of the United Front Work Department, a body within the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee that negotiates with groups outside the party and is hosting the talks.

Lawyers barred

BEIJING: Police in Beijing blocked Chinese dissident lawyers from attending a meeting with a pair of visiting US Congressmen, the lawmakers and a human rights group said

on Tuesday.

Chris Smith of New Jersey and Frank Wolf of Virginia said that such interference underscores what many activists say is a deterioration of human rights ahead of next month’s Olympic Games, despite pledges by Chinese officials that holding the games would give a boost to China’s rights situation. — AP