12/04/2008, 00.00
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Beijing threatens economic retaliations if Sarkozy meets the Dalai Lama

The Tibetan leader is in Belgium to address the European parliament. China warns that the scheduled meeting with Sarkozy on Saturday will compromise economic ties.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Dalai Lama met yesterday Belgium’s Prime Minister Lama Yves Leterme (pictured) and urged Europe to press China to respect human rights for the good of China. In response China has threatened dire consequences if French President Nicholas Sarkozy meets with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as scheduled.

At a press conference the 73-year-old Nobel Prize winner cited a Tibetan saying: “Some wounds in the mouth recover by themselves,” adding that the Chinese start with a “tough reaction,” but then things “can go smoothly,” like “my visit.”

The Dalai Lama repeated charges of “cultural genocide” in Tibet, calling on the European Union to stand firm on human rights in China. If the mainland wants to “become a good member of the world, they should respect these things.” Indeed, “there is a Tibetan saying that a more genuine friendship should be more frank. That's important,” the Dalai Lama added.

“I always believe our approach, the middle-way approach, is actually helping to bring stability, unity and prosperity and ultimately bring a harmonious society. So anyone, including the EU, helping that is indirectly helping the Chinese government.”

The Tibetan spiritual leader is expected to address the European Parliament in Brussels today. On Saturday he will be in Poland to attend a ceremony commemorating 25 years since former Solidarity Trade Union leader Lech Wałesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Here he will also meet Nicholas Sarkozy, who currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

China scrapped its annual summit with the European Union to protest the meeting, warning today that it might have consequences for trade relations with France.

“We attach great importance to our strategic partnership with France, as well as our business relations with France. These two points are closely related,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters. “Only under the condition of good bilateral relations can we create a sound atmosphere for our business relations.”

It is China’s policy to get other countries to cut ties with the exiled Tibetan leader.

Following a bloody crackdown in Tibet last March Beijing was slammed internationally by governments and public opinions. This culminated in protests that dogged the Beijing Olympic torch relay.

In April China sought to appease its critics by accepting talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. However when the Olympic Games were over it rejected every Tibetan proposal for greater autonomy and respect for their culture and religion.

Today state-run media in China repeatedly stated that the Dalai Lama’s proposals for greater Tibetan autonomy “had no future,” accusing the spiritual leader instead of seeking to restore theocracy.

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