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China vents its anger after Sarkozy meets Dalai Lama

Latest update : 2008-12-07

The Chinese government expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in Poland on Saturday, but officials have not announced any reprisals against France or the EU.

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


AFP - China lashed out at France on Sunday over President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama, saying it had seriously harmed China's ties with France and Europe.

"Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei has lodged a strong protest with the French side over Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama," Chinese state-run CCTV reported in its nightly broadcast.

It said He summoned France's ambassador to China, Herve Ladsous, on Sunday evening to complain about Sarkozy's meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader a day earlier.

"This has undermined the political foundations of Sino-French and Sino-European ties," the report quoted He as telling the French diplomat.

Sarkozy, who currently holds the EU presidency, met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in Poland, risking a new flare-up of Chinese anger after mass demonstrations at French stores earlier this year.

A separate statement issued by China's foreign ministry said the meeting had "caused serious harm to Sino-French bilateral relations."

"Despite the strong opposition of China's masses and the Chinese government's stern representations, President Sarkozy persisted in meeting the Dalai Lama in the dual capacities as French and EU president," said the statement by ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

"This erroneous French action grossly interferes in China's internal affairs and seriously hurts the feelings of China's people. The Chinese government expresses its resolute opposition and strong dissatisfaction," it said.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for his Chinese-controlled Himalayan homeland and views it as a national affront when foreign leaders have contact with him.

However, the Chinese statements made no mention of any further reprisals after China had already cancelled an EU-China summit.

The Chinese foreign ministry statement ended by urging France to take steps to "correct its mistakes to allow Sino-French ties to continue their healthy and stable development."

Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama, at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, was preceded by repeated Chinese warnings that Sino-French ties, including their burgeoning trade relationship, could be harmed.

After the meeting, Sarkozy took pains to play down any split with China and stressed he was free to talk to whomever he wants.

"The Dalai Lama confirmed what I already knew, that he will not demand independence for Tibet, and I told him how important I thought it was to pursue dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities," he said.

He added: "I am free as the French president and the EU president, I have values and convictions. Let's not make things tense, the world doesn't need it and it doesn't correspond to reality."

It has been a rocky year in Sino-French ties.

Weeks of anti-France demonstrations, targeting French commercial symbols such as retail giant Carrefour, erupted in April after pro-Tibet activists disrupted the Paris leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay.

While calling for calm at home in the current dispute, Beijing has warned of mounting anger among Chinese consumers.

It was quiet Sunday outside the French embassy in Beijing, although two busloads of armed police could be seen waiting on an adjacent side road.

The scene at Carrefour stores was normal as well, with masses of Chinese shoppers filling the aisles.

However, Internet forums, often the only form of public expression for Chinese, have been awash recently with anti-French comments, including calls for a boycott of French goods.

Normally, China's communist rulers swiftly block online expressions they do not like, but they have allowed the current criticisms to persist for days.

The Dalai Lama insists he wants only "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet. He has lived in exile in India since fleeing his homeland after a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.

Date created : 2008-12-07