Dalai Lama Hopes for Progress in Talks With China

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is calling on the international community to speak up for the Tibetan people as his envoys hold closed-door talks with Chinese officials in Beijing.

In a letter read to a conference in Tokyo Wednesday, the Dalai Lama said this week's talks take place at what he called a "crucial time" for the Tibetan people.

China has said little about the talks which opened Tuesday in Beijing. Three months ago Tibet and other Tibetan areas in China were hit by protests against Chinese rule in the predominantly Buddhist region.

The Dalai Lama said the situation in Tibet continues to be grim, adding that China's efforts to assimilate the region are eroding the Tibetan people's distinct cultural and spiritual heritage.

On Tuesday, China continued to blame the Dalai Lama for the unrest and accused him of trying to undermine the Beijing Olympics.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated his support for the Beijing Olympics, and says he does not want independence for Tibet - just greater autonomy.

The Dalai Lama's two envoys arrived in Beijing Monday as part of a five-person delegation for two days of talks.

The two sides last met in May, following calls from world leaders to alleviate tensions between Tibetan protesters and Chinese security forces.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and PTI.