China to meet with Dalai Lama envoy

BEIJING – The Chinese government said Friday that it would meet with a representative of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in an abrupt change in course that follows intense international pressure on Communist Party leaders to open such a dialogue.

The offer was the most significant concession by the government since last month’s protests over Chinese rule in Tibet. Authorities in recent weeks have taken every opportunity to vilify the Dalai Lama, blaming him for instigating the protests in the remote Himalayan region and abroad and saying he and his followers were trying to sabotage the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.

The two sides have not met since summer, when they failed to make progress on core issues such as the prospect of autonomy for Tibet within China.

State-run media reported the offer Friday, citing official sources.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official said he had no details on when such a meeting would occur or who would attend.

In Dharmsala, India, where the Dalai Lama’s administration in exile is based, the offer was greeted cautiously. “The Dalai Lama has always wanted to resolve the issue of Tibet through face to face discussions with Chinese authorities,” Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime minister in exile, said in a statement.

China’s unyielding position against the Dalai Lama and its crackdown on Tibetan protesters have played well inside the country. But elsewhere, China’s hard line has sparked global protests, putting the Communist Party’s policies in the international spotlight and serving to transform the Olympic torch relay into a maximum-security ordeal for host countries.

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