Envoys of the Dalai Lama fly to Beijing on Thursday for closed-door, fence-mending talks, two sources with knowledge of the meeting said, days after he expressed dismay at China's attitude about Tibet's future, reported Reuters.
The talks, the eighth round since 2002 and the first after Beijing hosted the Olympics in August, come amid growing concern about the Dalai Lama's health and the diminishing possibility of a meaningful settlement.
The exiled Nobel Peace Prize laureate, revered by Buddhists in Tibet and elsewhere, has said he wants a high level of autonomy for Tibet, but not outright independence. China considers him a trouble-making separatist.
Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama's envoys in Washington and Switzerland respectively, are expected to sit down for talks with the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, which deals with ethnic minorities and religious issues, the sources told Reuters requesting anonymity.
No other details were available. China's official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday a new round of talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys would be arranged "in the near future."
The Dalai Lama was hospitalized with abdominal pain in August and underwent gallstone surgery this month in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, the seat of his exiled government since 1959 when he fled his Himalayan homeland after a failed uprising.
China and the Dalai Lama's envoys have met twice to try to ease tension since riots broke out in Tibet in March and heaped international pressure on China to talk.
Pro-Tibet activists disrupted the international leg of the Olympic torch relay, and Chinese studying or living abroad staged counter-protests after Beijing blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for instigating the violence -- a charge he denies.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has called for a special meeting of Tibetan exiles in the second week of November to discuss the future of the Tibetan movement. Exiles are frustrated with the lack of progress in talks with China.
A senior aide of the 73-year-old leader of Tibetan Buddhism said on Sunday the Dalai Lama saw "no hope" of winning self-determination for his homeland. But the Dalai's office later issued a clarification and said his remarks had been misrepresented.
The Dalai Lama nonetheless said "the Chinese leadership has so far not responded positively to our overtures and does not seem interested in addressing the issue in a realistic way," according to the clarification received by email.
China and envoys of the Dalai Lama last held talks in Beijing in July, after being delayed by three weeks in the wake of China's deadliest earthquake in three decades.