Dalai Lama visit angers China

Official protest follows French president's meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

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

    He Yafei, China's vice foreign minister, said Sarkozy's meeting "grossly interfered in China's internal affairs and undermined the political foundations of Sino-French and Sino-European relations".

    "This wrong action harmed the bilateral political trust, all round co-operation, and bright future, hard won in the 45-year establishment of Sino-French relationship," He said.

    Liu Jianchao, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, also expressed concern, saying it was up to France to repair ties.

    Boycott calls

    In advance of the Sarkozy-Dalai Lama meeting, Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, had said: "We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends."

    Sarkozy had sought to head off the anticipated fury from Beijing, saying: "There is no need to dramatise things."

    However, momentum had already sparked a round of online anger, including some calling for boycotts of French goods.

    "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.

    Although there is a large 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.

    'Totally baseless'

    China has argued that the Dalai Lama is seeking full independence, something he dismissed on Friday as a "totally baseless" claim.

    "When China becomes more democratic, with freedom of speech, with rule of law and particularly with freedom of the press, ...  once China becomes an open, modern society, then the Tibet issue, I think within a few days, can be solved," the Dalai Lama said.

    Addressing the European parliament in Brussels on Thursday, he said China lacked the moral authority to be a true superpower.

    Wango Bashi, the head of France's Tibetan community, told radio France-Info that the meeting between Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama is "a very strong signal" for Tibetans and their country "where the situation nearly resembles that of martial law".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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