China presses France over Tibet

Beijing angry at President Sarkozy's planned meeting with the Dalai Lama.

    The Dalai Lama has said the Tibet issue can be solved once China becomes a more 'open' country [AFP]

    "I am using my real name to swear to the French: I am going to boycott French goods for my whole life. I will never use French brands or any product made in France," said one internet poster, who identified himself as Yan Zhongjie.

    Boycott calls

    A first boycott call put online earlier this week has been blocked, probably by government censors wary of anger that escalated into widespread protests that hit China after the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by anti-China protesters.

    But cached records show it was seen by nearly 850,000 readers and notched up 90,000 comments before it disappeared.

    Aides to Sarkozy have downplayed the likelihood of major reprisals.

    "We haven't noticed the slightest beginning of a boycott of our products," the AFP news agency reported an unnamed official as saying.

    Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist intent on splitting China.

    But the elderly monk denies he is seeking independence for Tibet, saying he wants only autonomy for his people.

    'Open' China

    Speaking in Poland on Friday, the Dalai Lama said the struggle over his homeland could be resolved quickly if China was to become a more open society.

    "Once China becomes a more open society, then the Tibet issue, I think, within a few days can be solved," he told a gathering of Nobel laureates in the Baltic port city of Gdansk.

    Asked when that could happen, he said: "I don't know. It's not in our hands. I cannot see the future clearly, I can just hope."

    Sarkozy's plan to meet the Dalai Lama is the latest in a string of rows that have left the French government struggling to keep relations with China on an even keel while deflecting criticism at home of being soft on Beijing.

    "We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends," said Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister.

    "We hope that our contacts with China, with the Chinese people, will be maintained as they are now, fraternal and very close."

    Liu Jianchao, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Thursday that Sarkozy's proposed meeting with the Dalai Lama had caused "a lot of dissatisfaction" with the Chinese people, but he also called on the public to be "calm and rational".

    Although there is a massive French presence in China, including companies such as hypermarket chain Carrefour, China has a trade surplus with the European nation and antagonising key partners during a global slowdown could be risky.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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