TIBET MAKES CONTACT: China makes demands

At a December 4 news conference held in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama announced that contact between Beijing and the Tibetan government-in-exile has been reestablished. The Dalai Lama told the assembled audience that his brother, Gyalo Thondup, made a secret visit to China in late October and returned with hopes for a more substantial dialogue. Formal contact between the Dalai Lama and Beijing, through the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, was cut in 1993. Informal links were maintained until severed altogether by Beijing in November of 1998. Asked if this most recent development might hold promise for a change in Chinese policy toward Tibet, the 65-year-old Tibetan leader said, “It is too early to say. What is essential is not whether we find agreement or not . . . but that we meet person to person.”

After initially denying reports of Thondup’s visit, Beijing authorities confirmed on December 7 that “channels of contact have been opened.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue insisted, however, that any future talks would take place only if the Dalai Lama accepted long-standing Chinese principles. “[He] must give up advocating Tibetan independence, stop activities aimed at splitting China, and openly declare that Tibet is an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” Zhang told a news conference. As for whether or not Thondup’s visit might signal a change in China’s approach to the Tibet problem, the Tibetan Information Network suggested: “Events of the past two decades suggest that the recent initiatives may be merely a well-timed attempt by China to consolidate its position internationally and to give an appearance of a �softening’ or greater openness on the Tibet issue.”

Bubba brings Buddhist Crackdown

 President Clinton makes a public appearance during his November visit to Vietnam. AP/Worldwide Photos
President Clinton makes a public appearance during his November visit to Vietnam. AP/Worldwide Photos

President Clinton’s visit to Vietnam on November 16�19 precipitated a crackdown on dissident religious groups by the Vietnamese government. Police targeted groups that are not included in the six state-sanctioned religious organizations. Thich Quang Do, head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, human rights advocate, and onetime nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, was detained and asked to leave the An Giang province in early October. Do was questioned and released after he and a small group of followers attempted to bring relief supplies to the victims of severe flooding in the Mekong delta. Government officials explained that all relief supplies must go through a government agency. Do later commented on Clinton’s visit, expressing concerns that his appearances would be used to promote government policies.

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