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Exiled Tibet PM 'not challenging' China Communists

Tibetan monks stand outside the Sera monastery in Lhasa, Tibet on June 22, 2008
Tibetan monks stand outside the Sera monastery in Lhasa, Tibet on June 22, 2008. The leader of Tibet's exiled government says he would accept the Chinese Communist Party's rule in the territory, assuring Beijing it faced no threat to its sovereignty if it

The leader of Tibet's exiled government said he would accept the Chinese Communist Party's rule in the territory, assuring Beijing it faced no threat to its sovereignty if it eases its grip.

Lobsang Sangay, who was elected in 2011 to a new position of prime minister in exile after the Dalai Lama gave up political duties, appealed to China for new talks on the grievances that have triggered a wave of self-immolations.

On a visit to Washington, Sangay said that the exiled government based in Dharamshala, India, was "not challenging China's sovereignty or territorial integrity" through its repeated calls for greater autonomy.

"What we seek is genuine autonomy as per the framework of the Chinese constitution. In short, if the Chinese government implements their own law, we would take that as genuine autonomy," he said at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay sits during a protest rally in New Delhi on February 2, 2013
Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay sits during a protest rally in New Delhi on February 2, 2013.

"That, we think, is a moderate, reasonable solution which is a win-win proposition both for the Chinese government and the Tibetan people."

China's constitution grants Tibet autonomy.

Sangay expressed hope that Tibetans would assume decision-making positions in the region -- notably party secretary -- and said he did not oppose the control of China's ruling Communists.

"We don't challenge, or ask for, an overthrow of the Communist Party. We don't question or challenge the present structure of the ruling party," he said.

Sangay called for greater opportunities for Tibetans, saying that a recent mine landslide in Tibet that killed 83 workers -- virtually all of them from China's Han majority -- showed how few Tibetans shared the wealth.

China says it has brought development to Tibet. It has questioned the sincerity of the government in exile and the Dalai Lama, Tibet's world-revered spiritual leader who fled to India in 1959, accusing them of secretly supporting separatism and violence.

More than 110 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, with most dying of their injuries, in demonstrations against what they view as Chinese oppression. Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting the protests.

Soldiers and firemen mass outside the Jokhang temple, one of Tibet's holiest sites, in Lhasa, Tibet
Soldiers and firemen mass outside the Jokhang temple, one of Tibet's holiest sites, in Lhasa, Tibet, in this photo by International Campaign for Tibet on December 8, 2012.

Sangay said the exiled leadership did not encourage self-immolations but shared solidarity with Tibetans driven to such desperation.

"The 117 self-immolators, they have not harmed a single soul, not even a Chinese person, not even a Chinese restaurant, not even a Chinese bicycle," he said.

"Even at that particular moment -- very painful, tragic, sad moment -- they're restraining themselves from hurting anyone.

"That much of restraint that Tibetans impose upon themselves is a clear indication and reflection of the fact that we do subscribe to non-violence," Sangay added.

China held nine rounds of dialogue with the Dalai Lama's envoys from 2002 to 2010, but the talks produced no visible results.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama delivers the Sadat Lecture for Peace at the University of Maryland,  May 7, 2013
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama delivers the Sadat Lecture for Peace at the University of Maryland in College Park, on May 7, 2013. Despite wide respect for the Dalai Lama, some younger Tibetan exiles have advocated a harder line toward China.

The slow pace has led some experts and activists to believe that China is trying to draw out diplomacy until the death of the 77-year-old Dalai Lama, hoping that the global movement he inspired would collapse without him.

Conscious of his own mortality, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has devolved political power to elected leaders and held open the possibility that Tibetans would break tradition and appoint a successor while he is alive.

Despite wide respect for the Dalai Lama, some younger Tibetan exiles have advocated a harder line toward China.

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