11/18/2008, 00.00
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Tibetans are deciding their future

by Penpa Tsering
Starting yesterday and until November 22, the leaders of the Tibetans in exile are discussing their stance toward Beijing. Supporters of dialogue are meeting with those who are in favor of independence. At a Tibetan leader tells AsiaNews what's being discussed, and what's expected.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Beginning yesterday and continuing until November 22 in Dharamsala (India), Tibetan leaders in exile are meeting to discuss their future stance toward Beijing, after the Dalai Lama himself said he was "discouraged" by the lack of results in talks with representatives of the Chinese government.

The "middle way" always supported by the Dalai Lama, asking Beijing for greater autonomy (with direct elections of a regional government and adequate protection for culture, traditions, and the natural environment) is confronting the harder line calling for the country's complete independence. The Tibetan government in exile has nonetheless specified that any decisions will not be taken at the meeting now underway, but "if a change in basic policy is considered necessary, there is a way that is democratic and which has the mandate of the Tibetan people."

Experts comment that the meeting serves above all to persuade China to make concessions to the requests of the moderates, in order to avoid bolstering extremist demands.

In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews, Penpa Tsering, executive director of the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre, says that "the mood in the special meeting is enthusiastic, people want to be involved in the  political process. 580 Tibetans in exile are participating, of whom 15% to 20% were born in Tibet."

"There are mixed responses from these Tibetans who were born in Tibet - some of them are seeking the realistic approach, and want China to engage in meaningful dialogue over the Tibetan issue. However, there are also some Tibetans who are taking the unrealistic approach of demanding independence."

"But the one common and unrelenting demand is for religious freedom in Tibet. These Tibetans cherish this yearning for Tibetan culture and religious traditions to be preserved and handed down from generation to generation. At this meeting, many have voiced the importance of the Tibetan language, identity and culture - this is their cherished desire."

"Of course, there are some emotional voices asking for independence for Tibet. It is true that many Tibetans are frustrated and discouraged because China is not responding in a positive manner to our requests. The group Tibetan Youth Congress sees this meeting as an excellent opportunity to change the history of Tibet, to leave behind a moderate approach and ask for independence. But we have to be rational in our deliberations. At times emotions may run high, but this meeting is guided by rational political discussions."

"For me personally, I am of the opinion that we should give some more time to the Chinese leadership to think about its response to the Tibetan issue. Perhaps another 3 to 4 years should be accorded to Beijing to deliberate upon a solution to the Tibetan issue, and for meaningful dialogue to come to some fruition."

"At the moment, the international community and world leaders are sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, and we have received much support and solidarity from them on the Tibetan issue, but besides all the moral support and vocal voices from the world leaders, they must intensifty their pressures on the Chinese to settle the Tibetan issue."

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