China slams upcoming Sarkozy-Dalai Lama meeting
rahul | November 14, 2008 at 07:33 amby
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Angered by a planned meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama, China is suggesting "bilateral relations could face a new setback if it goes ahead."
BEIJING (AP) - China on Friday sharply criticized a planned meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama, suggesting bilateral relations could face a new setback if it goes ahead. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reaffirmed Beijing's opposition to any form of contact between Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader and foreign heads of government. «At present, China's relations with both France and the EU are improving and developing. This hard-earned situation should be cherished,» Qin said in a statement posted on the ministry's Web site. «We urge the French side to proceed from the overall interest of bilateral relations,» Qin said. France should «take China's major concern seriously and properly handle relevant issues so as to contribute to the stable development of China-France and China-EU relations,» he said. Sarkozy said Thursday he would hold the long-awaited meeting with the Dalai Lama on Dec. 6 during a visit to Gdansk, Poland. There had been a sense that Sarkozy snubbed the Dalai Lama by not meeting with him when the Tibetan spiritual leader was in France during the Beijing Olympics. Relations between France and China nose-dived in the wake of chaotic protests by exiled Tibetans and other activists during the Olympic torch's passage through Paris in April. Angry Chinese protested outside the French Embassy and Chinese branches of French retailer Carrefour. Sarkozy deflated tensions by writing a personal letter to a handicapped Chinese fencer who defended the torch from a pro-Tibetan protester who was trying to wrestle it away. Sarkozy later attended the Olympics' opening ceremony in August, seemingly putting an end to the controversy. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking Tibet's separation from China, despite his repeated public denials and two-decade-old advocacy of a «middle path» that would achieve meaningful autonomy and protections for the Himalayan region's unique Buddhist culture, while leaving it a part of China. China insists Tibet has been part of its territory for 700 years, although many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time. Chinese forces invaded shortly after the 1949 Communist revolution and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule. Beijing this week hardened its uncompromising approach to the Dalai Lama, accusing him and his followers of plotting ethnic cleansing and a return to feudal rule, and blaming him for the lack of progress in successive rounds of informal talks between the sides. China emphatically rejected every proposal made by the Tibetan side, and on Thursday, Qin dismissed a meeting next week of exiled Tibetans called by the Dalai Lama as meaningless, saying the participants did not represent the views of most Tibetans. «Any attempt to plan or be involved in this meeting cannot represent the vast majority of the Tibetan people and their attempt will get nowhere,» Qin said.
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