04/22/2008, 00.00
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Paris makes the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen

The gesture is a token of solidarity with the Tibetan people “which is defending its right to life.” Sarkozy’s envoy is in Beijing trying to reduce tensions between France and China. Demonstrations against Carrefour supermarkets continue in the mainland.

Paris (AsiaNews) – The City of Paris had made the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen at a time when anti-French protest and a boycott of French products continue in China.

The motion to honour the Dalai Lama was backed by the city's Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe and his environmentalist allies but was not supported by President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right party or by Communist councillors.

“The Dalai Lama is a man of dialogue and peace,” Mr Delanoe said. “It is the duty of Paris, in the name of universal values, to support him.”

Mayor Delanoe said that, in honouring the Dalai Lama, Paris wanted “to show its support for the people of Tibet who are defending their most basic right to dignity, freedom and simply life.”

The gesture came as French president sent an envoy, French Senate President Christian Poncelet, to try to reduce tensions.

After the Olympic torch was carried in Paris where it became a rallying point for pro-Tibet demonstrations, anti-French protests were sparked across China, targeting French products.

The Chinese were outraged at the sight of Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound paralympic athlete, jostled by pro-Tibet activists as she tried to defend the torch from demonstrators.

In an attempt at reconciliation, president Sarkozy wrote a letter to the athlete praising her “outstanding courage” and apologising for the incident which, for him, did not represent the friendship between the two nations.

Mr Poncelet gave Jin a firm hug and kissed her on the cheek

In at least nine mainland cities protests continued against French-owned Carrefour supermarkets.

Many Chinese bloggers claimed that the company supported the Dalai Lama, but Carrefour management officially denied the allegation.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of being behind the demonstrations and unrest as a way to undermine the Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama has always rejected Beijing’s claims saying that he has always been in favour of the Games.

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See also
French emissaries to Beijing, Chinese government blocks "irrational" nationalism
The torch in Paris amid protests and tight security
The captain of the Indian Soccer team boycotts the Olympic torch
In San Francisco torch relay plays hide and seek to avoid protests
Tibetan Olympic torch, sign of freedom and justice


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