Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has urged his followers to take responsibility for their own future when they meet in India next week to discuss the way forward for their movement to win autonomy from China.
The Dalai Lama issued a message to Tibetans Friday ahead of a special meeting of Tibetan exiles to begin Monday in the north Indian town of Dharamsala, home to Tibet's government-in-exile.
He said it must be clear to everyone that the meeting has no set agenda, and is not aimed at reaching a particular pre-determined conclusion.
China has dismissed the planned gathering as meaningless. The Chinese foreign ministry said the participants do not represent the views of most Tibetans.
The six-day meeting will be the largest of its kind in roughly a decade. Tibetans will debate whether they want to continue negotiations for autonomy with China, or take more radical measures such as supporting independence.
The Dalai Lama, who called the meeting, recently said he has lost hope in the possibility of negotiating a settlement with Beijing over Tibet's future.
In his message today, the Tibetan spiritual leader urged participants to set aside partisan debate and work together in an atmosphere of openness and a spirit of collective responsibility.
Tibet's exiled community is divided between those who support the Dalai Lama's efforts seeking greater autonomy for Tibet, and those who support independence.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans disagree with that assessment.
China took control of Tibet shortly after the Communists took power in 1949. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese communist rule.
information for this report was provided by AP.