Chinese media slams Sarkozy for Dalai Lama meeting
By GILLIAN WONG,Associated Press Writer AP - 57 minutes ago
BEIJING - China piled criticism Monday on French President Nicolas Sarkozy for meeting with the Dalai Lama, with a newspaper calling him "arrogant" a day after Beijing summoned the French ambassador to protest the meeting.
China routinely objects to meetings between foreign leaders and the exiled Tibetan leader, but the harsh language and official complaint came as China hardens its line toward the Himalayan region and steps up efforts to isolate the Dalai Lama internationally.
China's relations with the French have been especially testy over the issue of Tibet since April, when pro-Tibetan activists protested en masse in the streets of Paris as the Olympic flame passed through the city on its world tour. Some Chinese called for boycotts of French products afterward, but those calls were mostly ignored.
Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama on Saturday privately in Gdansk, Poland, during celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of former Polish President Lech Walesa's Nobel Peace Prize. The Dalai Lama has also received the prize. Sarkozy earlier played down the furor, saying, "There's no need to dramatize things."
China demanded Sarkozy cancel the meeting several times and called off a major China-EU summit earlier this month in protest.
"For whatever the consequences of his stunt will be, the arrogant French president has only himself to blame. He asked for it," the editorial in the English-language China Daily newspaper said. It added the meeting "calls into question all his previous efforts to repair ties and his personal credibility as well."
It said the government may still need to buy Airbus planes, but Chinese travelers may decide to avoid Paris.
"Nor can it make consumers buy from brand names they feel bad about, be it Louis Vuitton or Carrefour," it said.
On Sunday, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei summoned the French ambassador to China to say the meeting was "a rude intervention in Chinese internal affairs and has hurt the feelings of Chinese people gravely."
In Paris, France's government minister for human rights said Sunday that it wasn't worth turning the tensions into a "psychodrama."
"I don't see what there is to debate about," Rama Yade said on France's RTL radio, noting that other world leaders have also met the Dalai Lama.
The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner has met in recent months with President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, drawing protests and differing levels of economic and political retaliation from Beijing.
Trade retaliation is one of the most potent weapons in China's arsenal, and China's decision to postpone the summit has frustrated European business leaders. More than 150 Chinese business executives had been expected to meet with European counterparts on the sidelines of the meeting.
The China Daily quoted a French studies expert in China as saying the delegates were to purchase goods worth 10 billion euros ($13 billion).
"The delay of the summit also means a delay in these deals," said Wang Zhaohui of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and denounces the Dalai Lama as a separatist who seeks to end Chinese rule of the Himalayan region. Many Tibetans say they were effectively an independent country for most of that time.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in Dharmsala, India, since fleeing Tibet amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He remains deeply revered among Tibetans, despite Beijing's relentless attempts to vilify him.
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