BEIJING – Two envoys of the Dalai Lama headed to China on Thursday for fresh talks arranged just days after the exiled leader suggested it was time Tibetans rethink their strategy for engaging Beijing, a Tibetan official said.
The envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, will be in Beijing for about a week, said Thupten Samphel, spokesman for the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu confirmed that the talks would take place but declined to give further details. "About that information, I believe the competent authorities will release it in due course," she told a regular news conference.
Telephones rang unanswered Thursday at the United Front Work Department, the central government department in charge of previous meetings.
The last formal talks between the envoys and Chinese officials, the seventh since 2002, ended in an impasse in July, with China demanding that the Dalai Lama prove he does not support Tibetan independence and disruption of the Olympics in August.
China has governed the Himalayan region since communist troops occupied it in the 1950s.
The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has followed a "middle way" approach with China, which means he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.
But over the weekend, he said at a public function in Dharmsala that he had "been sincerely pursuing the middle way approach in dealing with China for a long time now but there hasn't been any positive response from the Chinese side."
"As far as I'm concerned, I have given up," he said in an unusually blunt statement.
The announcement of new talks come as Tibetan officials in India have said that the Dalai Lama has called a special meeting of Tibetan exile communities and political organizations to discuss the future amid foundering talks with China.
The five-day gathering, scheduled for mid-November, could mark a significant shift in the Tibetan strategy for confronting Beijing.
Relations have been particularly tense this year. In March, peaceful demonstrations against Chinese rule in Lhasa exploded into violence. Beijing says 22 people were killed in the riots, in which hundreds of shops were torched and Chinese civilians attacked.
China then launched a massive crackdown in Tibet and a broad swath of Tibetan areas in the country's west regions. Tibetan exile groups said at least 140 people died. More than 1,000 people were detained, although human rights groups say the number could be higher.
After the last meeting, Lodi Gyari had said Chinese officials were not serious about resolving the Tibetan issue and, unless they changed, future talks were "almost pointless."