China lodges protest over Dalai Lama meeting
By GILLIAN WONG,Associated Press Writer AP - 1 hour 51 minutes ago
BEIJING - China protested strongly to France on Sunday over President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama, calling it a "rude intervention" into Chinese affairs.
Sarkozy met the Tibetan spiritual leader 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.
Although China routinely lodges protests when world leaders meet with the Dalai Lama, Sunday's complaint _ reported by the official Xinhua News Agency _ comes as China hardens its line toward the Himalayan region.
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.
Several times over the last week, China demanded Sarkozy cancel the meeting and called off a major China-EU summit earlier this month in protest. Sarkozy downplayed the furor, saying, "There's no need to dramatize things."
But on Sunday, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei summoned the French ambassador to China, Herve Ladsous, "and lodged a strong protest," Xinhua said.
It quoted He Yafei as saying the meeting "grossly interfered in China's internal affairs."
"It also severely undermined China's core interest, gravely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and sabotaged the political basis of China-France and China-EU relations," He said.
Officials in Sarkozy's office and France's Foreign Ministry would not immediately comment on the protest, while the spokeswoman of the French Embassy could not be reached late Sunday.
Chinese state television quoted He as saying France now must "correct its mistake with actual deeds to enable China-France relations to continue to be healthy and stable and advance forward."
"This wrong act by France is a rude intervention in Chinese internal affairs and has hurt the feelings of Chinese people gravely," it quoted him as saying.
"Sarkozy gave no consideration to numerous Chinese citizens' intense opposition" by seeing the Dalai Lama, He said, calling the exiled Tibetan leader a separatist and "political hooligan."
Sarkozy stressed his talk with the Dalai Lama posed no threat to Beijing. "I told him how much importance I attach to the pursuit of dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership," Sarkozy said. "The Dalai Lama confirmed what I already knew, that he is not demanding independence."
After a weeklong meeting called in November to discuss a so-far failed policy of rapprochement with China after 50 years in exile, the Dalai Lama and other exiled leaders said they would maintain their push for genuine autonomy.
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 won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He has lived in exile in Dharmsala, India, since fleeing Tibet amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. A self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile also is based in the northern Indian city.
The Dalai Lama remains deeply revered among Tibetans, despite Beijing's relentless attempts to vilify him.
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