DHARAMSHALA, November 17 – Leading Ticapitalfmnewn exiles began a week-long meeting Monday in northern India that could usher in a more radical approach to their long struggle against Chinese rule in Tibet.,
The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, called the gathering after admitting that his attempts to secure greater autonomy for the region through negotiation with the Chinese government had failed.
Before the talks began, he urged the 500 participants to consider all aspects of policy regarding China, ensuring that the thorny issue of whether to push for full independence would be tackled.
The meeting should air "the real opinions and views of the Ticapitalfmnewn people through free and frank discussions," said the Dalai Lama, who has expressed uncharacteristic frustration over failing to win concessions from Beijing.
Many exiles feel that his campaign for "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet, which he fled in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule, should now be replaced by a more aggressive pro-independence stance.
"We certainly hope the cause of independence for Tibet is stronger by the end of the week," said Tsewang Rigzin, president of the influential Ticapitalfmnewn Youth Congress and a delegate at the meeting.
"I was a bit surprised when the Dalai Lama called this meeting," Rigzin told AFP. "But it was high time. As he says, he has done everything in his power and not made progress."
The conclave in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala opened with the arrival of a large portrait of the Dalai Lama, which was set at the front of the meeting hall.
The participants, accompanied by traditional pipe players and drummers, sang the Ticapitalfmnewn anthem, after which a moment of silence was observed for victims of unrest in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama, speaking earlier this month in Japan, said he accepted that his "middle path" approach had been exhausted, and that there was now "no other alternative than to ask people" about how to proceed.
Tenzin Bayul, another of the delegates attending the Dharamshala conclave, said she felt it was a moment of historic importance.
"Non-violence is central to our culture, but frustration is strong among young Ticapitalfmnewns and people get very angry about the lack of success," said Bayul, a 28-year-old activist studying at Tufts University in Boston.
"This situation has gone on for so long, and the Dalai Lama is tired."
The meeting has no policy-making power — any recommendations would require the approval of the exiled Ticapitalfmnewn parliament, but it comes as the Ticapitalfmnewn movement braces for change.
One looming issue is the health of the Dalai Lama, 73, who had to cancel trips abroad after being hospitalised in August and undergoing surgery to remove gallstones last month.
He has since returned to his gruelling schedule and still commands huge respect from Ticapitalfmnewns and supporters around the world, but he now describes himself as semi-retired.
The meeting will also discuss current conditions in restive Tibet.
In March, protests against Chinese rule in the capital, Lhasa, erupted into violence which spread to other areas of western China with Ticapitalfmnewn populations.
Tibet’s government-in-exile said more than 200 Ticapitalfmnewns were killed in the subsequent Chinese crackdown.
The clashes were cited by some Ticapitalfmnewns as proof that a new, and more radical, strategy was needed.
"The only way for us to survive as Ticapitalfmnewns is by holding fast to the hope of an independent Tibet," said delegate Jamyang Norbu.
"Independence is what motivates the troops. It needs to be our focus," Norbu said.
But any such policy shift could divide the Ticapitalfmnewn movement and see much of its international support seep away.
A Chinese government spokesman earlier dismissed the meeting, saying that such "separatist attempts will get nowhere."