Chinese president hopeful about talks with Dalai Lama representatives
China's President Hu Jintao said he hopes for a "positive outcome" from talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials that began Sunday, according to AP.
The meeting is the first between the two sides since violent anti-government protests erupted in Tibet in March.
"I hope that the contacts with the Dalai Lama's side from today will yield a positive outcome," Hu told Japanese reporters in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Hu said the meeting came after repeated requests by the Dalai Lama's side for a resumption of talks, Xinhua said.
"Our policy on the Dalai Lama is clear and consistent, and the door of dialogue remains open," Xinhua quoted Hu as saying.
Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India, said Sunday the Dalai Lama's envoys were in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and talks began in the morning. He said he had no other details.
Discussions were scheduled to last a day or two, Rinpoche said. "We are positive that something good will come out of it," Rinpoche told The Associated Press.
The Dalai Lama's envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, were meeting with two vice ministers of the United Front Work Department, which deals with influential people in groups outside China's Communist Party.
The meeting location wasn't announced.
The Dalai Lama's representatives planned to push for an easing of tensions in Tibetan areas of China and address Beijing's accusations that the spiritual leader has been masterminding the recent unrest, Rinpoche told a public rally in Dharmsala.
"Our hopes are high, but this is just a small step in a long process," Rinpoche said.
Hu said he hoped the Dalai Lama would take concrete actions to stop violence and end what he called attempts to disrupt the Beijing Olympics and split China, Xinhua said.
International critics have accused China of heavy-handed tactics in quelling protests in Tibet and Tibetan areas of western China. Some experts believe Beijing agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama's envoys to ease that criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.
China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet's capital of Lhasa in March, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died in protests and the subsequent crackdown.
Beijing claims the Dalai Lama and his supporters organized the riots with the aim of breaking the Himalayan region of Tibet away from Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet during a failed uprising in 1959, says he is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from Chinese rule. He has decried "cultural genocide" in his homeland, which has a unique Buddhist tradition distinct from the rest of China.