Dalai Lama's return to Tibet slim: China

Sydney Morning Herald, March 8, 2007

Beijing, China -- Chances of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama returning to the Chinese-ruled territory are slim, the chairman of the mountainous region said.

The Dalai Lama has led a government in exile in India since fleeing Lhasa in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist troops, who marched into Tibet nine years earlier.

"If the Dalai Lama doesn't give up completely his pursuit of Tibet independence in word and in deed, the hope is slim for him to return," Xiangba Pingcuo told a news conference on the sidelines of China's annual session of parliament.

The Dalai Lama says he wants greater autonomy, not independence, for his predominantly Buddhist homeland, but Chinese officials consider him a separatist and a traitor.

Nonetheless, China and envoys of the Dalai Lama have been engaged in a slow-motion dialogue on the Tibet issue since 2002, which analysts say is partly driven by the fear that if the 71-year-old dies in exile, it could trigger unrest in the region.

The Dalai Lama has expressed interest in visiting Buddhist landmarks in China and in witnessing the country's economic progress.