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DHARAMSALA, India: Tibetan leaders opened a six-day meeting over the direction of their struggle with China on Monday, after the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, expressed frustration over years of fruitless talks with Beijing.

The meeting here in northern India, called by the Dalai Lama, comes after his comments last month bemoaning the lack of any progress by his envoys in talks with the Chinese government since 2002.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, called for an “open and frank discussion” and new ideas. Much of the debate is expected to boil down to two main choices: to continue pushing for Tibetan autonomy or beginning a movement for independence.

Rinpoche said in an opening speech to the hundreds of delegates that the meeting may not necessarily lead to a new approach with China and that any new path needs to have “the clear mandate of the people.”

The Dalai Lama was not expected to attend the meetings, said Lobsang Choedak, press officer of the government-in-exile.

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama’s envoys to the last round of talks with Beijing said in a statement that they had presented China with a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their autonomy needs within the framework of the Chinese Constitution. Their plan says the Constitution “contains fundamental principles on autonomy and self-government” that would allow Beijing to “respond to the uniqueness of the Tibet situation.”

But China apparently rejected the plan and recent “Chinese statements distort the position and proposal” outlined in the paper, the statement said.

Chinese officials said no progress was made in the talks two weeks ago, calling the Tibetan stance “a trick.”

“The Dalai Lama or the Tibetan government-in-exile cannot be held responsible for the failure of the Chinese to respond to our sincere and genuine attempts,” said Lodi Gyari, an envoy of the Dalai Lama who has participated in all eight rounds of talks since 2002.

“The Chinese leadership keeps on saying that the doors to a dialogue are always open but they haven’t shown any willingness to take any step, however small, forward,” he said.

China has dismissed the meeting this week as meaningless, saying the participants do not represent the views of most Tibetans. Beijing says the Dalai Lama and his followers are seeking outright independence from Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama has declined to offer his views on the future of the movement because he said he did not want to tilt the debate in any particular direction.

Karma Chophel, speaker of Parliament in the government-in-exile, said more than 8,000 of 17,000 Tibetans recently surveyed in Tibet said they would follow the Dalai Lama. More than 5,000 said they wanted Tibetan independence, more than twice the number who wanted to continue with the current approach, he said. He did not offer any details about how the survey was conducted.

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For fifty years, Tibet has been a largely silent world, one where no Tibetan speaks out openly. But in 2003 the Tibetan poet Woeser stepped forward from the shadows with Notes on Tibet, a set of uniquely frank essays on modern life which, though quickly suppressed, were followed by major works of poetry, reportage, history, and cyberjournalism. She found herself compelled to move from Lhasa to Beijing, where, under constant harassment by the authorities, she has continued, as if without fear, to produce work that is honest, lyrical, and daring.

Here are a couple of her poems:

“Remembering a Battered Buddha

Twenty days since I left Lhasa
But still I see that statue of the Buddha with its face bashed in.
It was on a street vendor’s stand in front of the Tromsikhang neighborhood office.
I noticed it from a distance.
I’d gone to Tromsikhang Market to buy droma,
But at the sight a sudden grief assailed me.
I drew closer—couldn’t help it—to this thing so crushed:
It seemed alive, leaning against a shelf in agony,
The face hammered, an arm hacked off, the whole figure chopped off at the waist.
Hurting so bad, leaning against a rack of the goods
That surrounded it: soy sauce, bean jam, salad dressing, and roll after roll of toilet paper,
All introduced into our life long ago from inland China.
Around its neck an ornament, once exquisite, inlaid with colored stones,
And at its chest a wondrous beast with lion head and body of man,
Stacked on a fragmentary chorten.
In what sacred shrine or pious home were these things once venerated?
Hurting so bad and leaning against the rack of merchandise,
It emanated the calm of still waters, but pain stabbed into my marrow:
As I looked on in grief, I sensed a story being played out
That had both a present and a past.
I was moved by the shadowy fate that had brought us together,
As if melted snow from the high peaks had filled my being.
Hugging his knees, the peddler made a pitch:
“Come on, buy it! Don’t the old buddha look grand?”
“When did it get beat up like this?” I asked.
“Cultural Revolution, obviously!” he glanced up, “Had to be the Cultural Revolution.”
“How much?” I wanted to buy it, to take it home,
But this peddler from Jiangxi wouldn’t budge from three thousand.
So with reluctance and regret, and many an afterthought,
I left that broken buddha streaming rays of pain.
I only took some pictures,
So when I miss it I can turn on my computer and have a look.
Friends say it may have been a brand-new buddha, wrecked thus
To fetch a higher price, and the link to the Cultural Revolution was a fiction.
Maybe so; but the hurt remains.
I wrote these lines to try to let it go.

May 14, 2007
Beijing”

“On the Road

On the road with edgy mind,
I’ll flee the chaos of this floating world,
Pick a place to settle,
Find choice words
To tell this passing turn of the Wheel.

On the road one meets by chance
Men and women of immense dignity;
One’s natural pride is humbled.
The ruins that overspread Tibet with shadows dark as night
Have a nobility not found in ordinary men.

Among those encounters:
One dear to me, long−lost,
Brilliant, uncompromising,
Neglected.
I, too, am pure and honest;
Mine, too, a sincere and gentle heart;
I wish as seasons change I could change with them.
No need for gifts to one another;
We are the gifts.

On the road, an elder of my people says:
“Golden flowers bloomed on golden mountain;
While golden flowers bloomed, he did not come;
And when he came, the flowers had died.
Silver flowers bloomed on silver mountain;
While silver flowers bloomed, he did not come;
And when he came, the flowers had died.”

On the road, walking alone.
An old book without a map,
A pen, not much to eat,
Ballads from a foreign land:
These will suffice. On the road,
I see a black horse
Who does not bow his head to graze but shakes his hooves,
Vexed that he can’t run free.
Yet also, deep in meditation caves among the vast mountains,
The hidden forms of men.
What sort of heart will honor and revere them?

On the road, a pious mudra’s not complex,
But it ill suits a tainted brow.
A string of special mantras is not hard,
But they’re jarring, from lips stained with lies.

On the road,
I clutch a flower not of this world,
Hurrying before it dies, searching in all directions,
That I may present it to an old man in a deep red robe.
A wish−fulfilling jewel,
A wisp of a smile:
These bind the generations tight.

May 1995
Lhasa”

“The Past

This snow−clad mountain, melting, is not my snow mountain.
My snow mountains are the mountains of the past,
Far at the sky’s edge, holy and pure:
Many a lotus, eight petals opening,
Oh, many a lotus, eight petals opening.

This lotus, withering, cannot be my lotus.
My lotus is the lotus of the past,
Enfolding the snow mountains, lovely,
Many a prayer flag, five colors fluttering,
Oh, many prayer flags, five colors fluttering.

The past, the past… such a past!
A host of divinities sheltered our homeland
As a lama keeps watch over souls,
As a mastiff stands guard by the tent.
But the host of divinities is long gone, now,
The host of divinities is long gone.

September 2002
Yunnan, in sight of Mt. Khawa Karpo”