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Asia-pacific

Sarkozy meets Dalai Lama despite Chinese anger

Video by James CREEDON , Marion GAUDIN

Latest update : 2008-12-07

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in the Polish city of Gdansk despite China's warnings that trade deals were at stake. In August, Sarkozy snubbed the Tibetan spiritual leader during his visit to France.

Click here to find out if Chinese web users favour Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama

 

 

REUTERS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy defied China on Saturday by meeting Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama but said there was no reason to "dramatise" the encounter.

 

China called off a summit with the EU last Monday in protest against Sarkozy's decision to meet the Dalai Lama, branded by Beijing as a "splittist" for advocating self-determination for his remote mountainous homeland.

 

"There is no need to dramatise things. I have always considered Tibet as part of China -- the Dalai Lama himself does not call for Tibet's independence," Sarkozy told reporters just before his talks with the Buddhist leader.

 

"We must see things calmly, serenely," he said, adding that the president of France had the right to set his own agenda.

 

No news conference was planned after the meeting, in the Baltic port of Gdansk where both men attended celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Polish pro-democracy leader Lech Walesa's winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Sarkozy stressed that China and Europe needed each other.

 

"The world needs an open China which participates in world governance. China needs a powerful Europe which gives work to companies in China. We have the duty to work together," he said.

 

French officials say Beijing's unusually vocal criticism of Sarkozy's plans to meet the Dalai Lama is linked to the fact that Paris holds the European Union's rotating presidency. Many Chinese nationalists have urged a boycott of French products.

 

"The Chinese believe that we have the power to enforce discipline among the (27) countries of the European Union ... (But) we are not the teachers of the European classroom," a French official told reporters in Paris.

 

 

 

BOYCOTTS

 

The official also said there had been no sign yet of any Chinese boycott of French products, noting that the EU is China's biggest trade partner and that supermarket chain Carrefour employs tens of thousands of people in China and is the biggest purchaser of Chinese goods in France.

 

French companies were subjected to Chinese boycotts and demonstrations earlier this year after the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by anti-China protesters.

 

Earlier on Saturday, the Dalai Lama called for dialogue and compassion to solve the world's problems, but he steered clear of politics.

 

"Warfare failed to solve our problems in the last century, so this century should be a century of dialogue. Every problem must be solved through talks, understanding of others' interests, others' rights," he said.

 

"War means dividing, compassion brings us together. As social animals the key factor for our life is compassion," he told hundreds of delegates, including Walesa, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and other Nobel laureates.

 

The Dalai, who met Tusk privately on Saturday, praised Polish courage in resisting past oppression.  The 73-year-old monk is a popular figure in Poland, where some see in his struggle with China's communist authorities echoes of their own battles under Walesa against Soviet-backed communist rule that ended in 1989. The Dalai Lama and other supporters of Tibetan self-rule say China is strangling the mountain region's cultural and religious traditions and subordinating Tibetans to an influx of Han Chinese migrants and investment, charges Beijing rejects.

 

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed insurrection against Chinese rule in Tibet, occupied by People's Liberation Army troops from 1950.

Date created : 2008-12-06

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