Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama voiced hope Wednesday that the latest round of talks between his envoys and China will lead to progress, saying the situation in his homeland was "critical."
In a letter read out to a conference in Tokyo of Japanese supporters of Tibet, the Dalai Lama said the round of talks that opened Tuesday in Beijing "has come at a crucial time."
"I hope this seventh round of talks will contribute in making some marked improvement in our discussions," said the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has lived in exile in India for nearly a half-century.
China has said little about the talks in Beijing, which opened three months after major protests in Tibet against Beijing's controversial rule over the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan region.
The crackdown on the unrest, which spread to neighbouring Tibetan-populated areas of western China, sparked global demonstrations that marred the month-long international journey of the Beijing Olympic torch.
"Tibet today is passing through a very critical period with the very survival of the Tibetan people at stake. The situation in Tibet continues to be grim," the Dalai Lama said.
"China's current unremitting efforts to assimilate Tibet are eroding the Tibetan people's distinct cultural and spiritual heritage.
"For this reason it is important for the international community to speak up on behalf of the Tibetan people," he said.
The Dalai Lama, the winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, repeated that he was not seeking independence from China or pursuing violence, as alleged by Beijing.
"We remain committed to resolving the issue of Tibet through dialogue and discussion in finding a mutually acceptable solution -- that is, within the constitution of the People's Republic of China," he said.
"We are neither anti-China nor anti-Chinese and we have great admiration for China and its people. It is extremely important that we reach out to the Chinese brothers and sisters, wherever possible," he said.
The Tokyo conference drew some 200 people, including lawmakers from Japan's opposition and Kesang Yangkyi Takla, the foreign minister of Tibet's government in exile in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala.
She voiced hope that China "will respond more positively" in the current round of talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys.
"A meaningful and discernable engagement in these negotiations is the only way forward to find a final solution," she told the conference.
The latest talks come after an informal round of discussions was held on May 4 in the Chinese city of Shenzhen following global pressure after the unrest. The formal talks, launched in 2002, broke off last year.
Japanese opposition lawmakers at the forum called on the government to put Tibet on the agenda of next week's Group of Eight summit in the northern Japan resort of Toyako, to which Chinese President Hu Jintao has been invited.
"We should ask China, which is to hold the Olympic Games, to deal appropriately with human rights issues," said Jin Matsubara, an opposition lawmaker on the lower house foreign affairs committee.
"If China hopes to be a leader in the world, it cannot leave the issue of Tibet unresolved," he said.