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New talks between China and Tibet prompt speculation on shift

New talks between China and Tibet prompt speculation on shift

Envoys of the Dalai Lama were due in Beijing yesterday ahead of new talks over the status of the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader.
The weekend meetings come amid renewed speculation over possible shifts in Beijing's policies toward Tibet, geared toward boosting the Himalayan region's economy in hopes of reducing the chances of further ethnic unrest.
Tibet saw the worst anti-government violence in decades in the spring of 2008, and remains under a heavy security crackdown.
The talks, the first in 15 months, are the ninth round in a process that began in 2002 and has yet to produce substantive results.
Beijing refuses to discuss the status of China-ruled Tibet and insists that talks only address the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled to exile in India in 1959.
China has apparently rejected proposals raised at previous talks for greater Tibetan autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution.
Nor has China shown any sign of easing its strict controls over Tibetan political expression and Buddhist worship. Beijing maintains that strife in the Himalayan region is economic in origin rather than based on religious or ethnic differences.
Still, oberservers have been scanning recent official statements for evidence that Beijing is moving ever so slightly to refine its positions. Given China's opaque decision-making process, even a small change in language or shift in emphasis can spur talk of change.
As with past rounds of talks, the discussions with officials from the Dalai Lama's self-proclaimed India-based government-in-exile are taking place under a cone of secrecy. Little is known other than that envoys Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen arrived in China this week and were due to meet with Communist Party officials on Saturday and Sunday.