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DHARMSALA, India – Years of negotiations with Beijing have achieved little for the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama said Friday, though he insisted that talks still needed to press ahead and that the Chinese leadership could – eventually – soften its stand on Tibet.
In an hour-long interview with The Associated Press, the Buddhist leader criticized Beijing for its policies in his Himalayan homeland while he held out the possibility that some type of accord could be reached.
“So far, dialogue failed, but that does not mean in future no possibility,” the Dalai Lama said in his private compound in this Indian hill town where he has lived since fleeing Tibet more than five decades ago. While admitting he was deeply frustrated by the lack of progress during nine rounds of talks, he also said there were clear signs of progress in Beijing. “They are realistic,” he said of the Chinese leadership. “They have the ability to act according to a new reality.”
Among his reasons for hope: increasing sympathy for the Tibetan cause among Chinese intellectuals, the power of technology to bring news out of Tibet and vague signs from Beijing that some Chinese leaders might be ready to soften their stand on Tibet.
Some of the Beijing leadership believes that “policy regarding Tibet now should be more openly, more peacefully. I heard that,” he said in his sometimes tangled English. “True or not? We’ll have to wait.”
And patience, he added, is something Tibetans understand.
It has been 51 years since he fled his homeland. “Another 10, 20 years we can wait,” he said, breaking into laughter.
Talks between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys resumed in January for the first time in 15 months but made no apparent progress on the Tibetans’ demands for more autonomy. Beijing refused to even talk about granting Tibet more latitude, limiting discussions to the future of the exiled spiritual leader.
As to his future, the 74-year-old Dalai Lama said some Chinese leaders were simply waiting for him to die, hoping the Tibet issue would fizzle once he is gone. In Tibetan Buddhism, each Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of his predecessor. Because of this, turmoil often surrounds the death of a Dalai Lama as religious elders look for mystical signs that point them to the next reincarnation.
The man demonized by Beijing, though, insists he is nowhere near death.
“Unfortunately, the demon – demon Dalai Lama – looks very healthy,” he said, laughing loudly at his joke.
And, he noted, his death may make the situation worse for China, as angry young Tibetans – no longer held back by his steadfast demands for nonviolence – could take to the streets.
It is a possibility he fears deeply.
“If some kind of violence takes place, then the Tibetan will automatically be the victim,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from Beijing, but Chinese officials have long accused the Dalai Lama of being a “splittist” intent on sowing trouble within Tibet. While the Dalai Lama insists he only wants some form of Tibetan autonomy, Chinese officials say he is secretly advocating for complete independence.
“The people understand more that splittism brings misfortune and ethnic unity brings happiness,” Hao Peng, the Chinese vice governor of Tibet, told journalists visiting the region in March, during a tightly controlled visit.
Beijing, of course, doesn’t need to be as diplomatic as the Dalai Lama.
While the Dalai Lama wields enormous spiritual influence across Tibet, where he is seen as both a living god and the Tibetan king, Beijing has near-absolute control of the region. China has thousands of soldiers stationed there, manages a vast intelligence network and is flooding Tibet with ethnic Han Chinese.
Since 2008, when demonstrations flared into riots in Tibetan communities across western China, Beijing has imposed smothering security on many Tibetan areas as it mixes government threats of further crackdowns with economic incentives to gain support.
The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959, nine years after Communist troops marched into the Himalayan region. Beijing claims Tibet has been a Chinese territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time and that migration to the region and restrictions on Buddhism are threatening their culture.
Beijing denies all such accusations and Chinese President Hu Jintao has publicly made the creation of a “harmonious society” one of his top goals, trying to bridge the vast ethnic and economic divisions across the country.
The Dalai Lama scoffed at that.
“So far, in order to develop harmony, the main method is suppression!”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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