NEW DELHI – The newly elected head of the Tibetan government in exile said Thursday that his administration is ready to negotiate with China "anytime, anywhere."
Lobsang Sangay also told reporters in New Delhi that his priorities as political leader of Tibetan exiles include bringing more freedom to Tibet and seeing the Dalai Lama return to his homeland.
"From our side we are willing to negotiate with the Chinese government anytime, anywhere," the 43-year-old Harvard legal scholar said.
The Tibetan government in exile has attempted dialogue with the Chinese government but nine previous rounds of talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's envoys have made no headway.
Sangay was elected last month by tens of thousands of Tibetans around the world after the 75-year-old Dalai Lama said he wanted to shift his political authority to an elected leader.
Sangay said his government would seek genuine autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule by following "the middle path," the Dalai Lama's policy of measured compromise.
"When I take over I will implement that policy," Sangay said.
There was no immediate reaction from Beijing, which accuses the self-proclaimed exile government of seeking to separate Tibet from China, despite the Dalai Lama's claim to be working only for a high degree of autonomy under Chinese rule.
Sangay is on his way to the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, where the parliament is slated to meet later this month to discuss amendments to its constitution.
Sangay is to be sworn in on May 30 in Dharmsala but will only assume office in August when the term of the current prime minister ends.
He was in the Indian capital to meet three activists from the Tibetan Youth Congress who are on a hunger strike to protest a clampdown by Chinese armed forces on the Kirti monastery in Sichuan province.
The monastery has been completely surrounded since March 16 after a 21-year-old monk set himself on fire to protest Chinese rule.
Soldiers at one point prevented food and other supplies from entering the compound.
"We feel the pain of Tibetans inside Tibet," Sangay said after meeting the hunger strikers.
China occupied Tibet in 1950 and claims the region has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans, who are linguistically and ethnically distinct, say they were effectively independent.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in northern India in 1959.