Negroponte Urges China to Stop Vilifying Dalai Lama

The second-ranking diplomat in the Bush administration has urged China to stop vilifying the Dalai Lama and instead open talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte appeared before a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday. He said the United States is trying to convince Beijing that only by engaging the Dalai Lama in dialogue can it resolve the long-standing grievances of the Tibetan people.

Protests led by Tibetan Buddhist monks in mid-March escalated into widespread clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Tibet's government-in-exile says more than 150 people died in the resulting Chinese crackdown.

Negroponte told senators the United States is trying to get the Chinese to grant unfettered access to Tibet for diplomats and journalists. He also said the Bush administration would like to establish a permanent diplomatic presence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the March riots in Lhasa and the unrest that followed in other ethnic Tibetan areas of China. He has denied the accusation and called for restraint.

Negroponte told the Senate committee that only Chinese and Tibetan leaders can resolve their differences. He urged Chinese authorities to re-examine long-standing policies in Tibet that, in his words, exacerbate the situation.