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Local Tibetans eagerly watch China

The Associated Press
Tuesday September 10, 2002

BERKELEY — Northern California’s Tibetan community cautiously welcomed a visit to China’s capital by a special envoy of Tibet’s spiritual Leader, the Dalai Lama. 

Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s special envoy, was scheduled to arrive Monday in Beijing. He’s also expected to visit Tibet’s erstwhile capital, Lhasa, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington. Lodi Gyari, the director of the International Campaign for Tibet, has an office in Washington. 

Boucher said President Bush and other U.S. officials have encouraged Chinese leaders to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives. 

While welcoming Gyari’s visit, Tibetan activists in Northern California said the Bush Administration ought to be doing more to help Tibet. 

“If the Chinese respond positively to the visit, it’s a good sign,” said Tenzin Woser, a shop owner in Berkeley. “But any real changes in the relationship between China and Tibet will take a long, long time.” 

Tibet — once an independent kingdom in the Himalayan plateau within China’s boundaries — was annexed by China in 1950. 

The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959 after Chinese soldiers crushed a popular uprising against Beijing’s rule. Since then he has lived in India, where he runs a government-in-exile in Dharmsala. The Dalai Lama has become a global advocate for Tibetan self-rule. 

China, however, says Tibet is a province that it reclaimed in the 1950 annexation. Tibetan activists accuse China of systematically eliminating the Tibet language and restricting religious freedoms. 

“We need to open a dialogue with China,” said Berkeley-based Tibetan activist Tashi Norbu. “But I’m not sure that China is genuine.” 

Like many Tibetans living in the United States, he said Bush was neglecting the plight of Tibet. 

“He’s more interested in doing business with the Chinese than helping Tibet,” said Tashi Norbu, who was born in Eastern Tibet, but has lived in the United States since he was a teenager. 

Of Tibet’s approximately 6 million people, about 200,000 live in exile around the world. 

Woser, a former Board member with the Berkeley-based Tibetan Association of Northern California, urged all exiled Tibetans to visit their homeland “to see the real situation.”