France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) is welcomed by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Gdansk December 6, 2008. Reuters Pictures

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) is greeted by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Gdansk December 6, 2008. Reuters Pictures

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama meet in Gdansk December 6, 2008. Reuters Pictures

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama greets European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) next to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (2nd L) during the 25th anniversary celebrations of former Polish President Lech Walesa's Nobel Peace Prize, at Baltic Philharmonic in Gdansk December 6, 2008. Reuters Pictures

Reuters: Sarkozy defies China with Dalai Lama talks

Sat Dec 6, 2008 11:50pm IST

By Yann Le Guernigou and Gareth Jones

GDANSK, Poland (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy defied China on Saturday by meeting Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and said Europe shared the Dalai's concerns over the situation in his homeland.

But Sarkozy, whose decision has sparked Chinese nationalist calls for a boycott of French products, also stressed that he regarded Tibet as part of China and said there was no need to "dramatise" his encounter with the Buddhist leader.

"The meeting went very well ... The Chinese authorities knew perfectly well this meeting would take place before the end of the year," Sarkozy told reporters after his talks, which lasted about 30 minutes.

China called off a summit with the European Union last Monday in protest against Sarkozy's plan to meet the Dalai Lama, branded by Beijing as a "splittist" for advocating self-determination for his mountain homeland.

Sarkozy said the Dalai, who welcomed him by draping a 'kata' or traditional Tibetan white scarf on his shoulder, had said at the meeting that he does not seek independence for Tibet. "I told him how much importance I attach to the pursuit of dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities."

Asked about the situation in Tibet, Sarkozy said: "The Dalai Lama shared with me his worries, worries which are shared in Europe. We have had a wide discussion of this question."

The Dalai Lama and other supporters of Tibetan self-rule say China is strangling the mountain region's cultural and religious traditions and subordinating Tibetans to an influx of Han Chinese migrants and investment, charges Beijing rejects.


The two met in the Polish port of Gdansk where they joined 25th anniversary celebrations of Polish pro-democracy leader Lech Walesa's winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Playing down any possible negative impact on Sino-French ties, Sarkozy said: "There is no need to dramatise things."

Sarkozy said China and Europe needed each other.

"The world needs an open China which participates in world governance. China needs a powerful Europe which gives work to companies in China. We have the duty to work together," he said.

Beijing's unusually vocal criticism of Sarkozy's plan to meet the Dalai Lama is linked to the fact that Paris holds the European Union's rotating presidency, diplomats say.

In Paris, an official said there had been no sign yet of any Chinese boycott of French products. The EU is China's biggest trade partner and supermarket chain Carrefour employs tens of thousands of people in China and is the biggest purchaser of Chinese goods in France.

French companies were subjected to Chinese boycotts and demonstrations earlier this year after the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by anti-China protesters.

Earlier on Saturday, the Dalai Lama called for dialogue and compassion to solve the world's problems.

"Warfare failed to solve our problems in the last century, so this century should be a century of dialogue," he told delegates, including Walesa, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The Dalai, who met Tusk privately on Saturday, praised Polish courage in resisting past oppression.

The 73-year-old monk is a popular figure in Poland, where some see in his struggle with China's communist authorities echoes of their own battles under Walesa against Soviet-backed communist rule that ended in 1989.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed insurrection against Chinese rule in Tibet, occupied by People's Liberation Army troops from 1950.

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris)

Xinhua: Sarkozy's meeting with Dalai Lama an unwise move detrimental to Sino-French ties

2008-12-07 01:13:10

BEIJING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Despite China's repeated persuasions and representations, French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted on meeting Saturday with the Dalai Lama, who is on a Europe tour.

This development is indeed an unwise move which not only hurts the feelings of the Chinese people, but also undermines Sino-French ties.

The Dalai Lama has long been engaged in activities worldwide to split China. He can by no means conceal the separatist nature of his activities no matter what by whatever disguise and whatever florid rhetoric he may use.

The Chinese government and people firmly oppose Dalai's activities aimed at splitting China conducted in any country under any disguise. They also stand firmly against any foreign leader's contact with Dalai in any form.

The Tibet issue involves China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and bears on China's core interests.

The French side, however, in total disregard of China's grave concern and the general situation of Sino-French relations, took an opportunistic, rash and short-sighted approach to handling the Tibet issue.

Just as the British newspaper "Financial Times" put it, Sarkozy wanted to maintain dialogue with China on economy and trade, but meanwhile believed this should not keep him from raising the Tibet issue.

During his China visit in August this year, Sarkozy said that France has always regarded China as an important strategic partner since General Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) became French president.

He also expressed his willingness to further enhance relations between the two nations. With Sarkozy's words still ringing clear, what the French side is doing to this effect can hardly be convincing.

With the vision and courage of a great statesman, General de Gaulle opened the door of friendly relations between the two countries 44 years ago, making France the first among Western countries to forge diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China.

Commenting on his decision, de Gaulle said that it was based on the ever-increasing influence of facts and reason. His insightful remarks still offers much for thought even for today.

Over the past five decades and more, the development of Sino-French ties has been sound on the whole. The occasional setbacks in bilateral ties were caused by France's attempts to play the human rights card with China and its arms sales to Taiwan in infringement of China's core interests of national reunification.

Thanks to joint efforts by both sides, the past years have seen sound development of Sino-French ties, with exchanges and cooperation in all fields further growing in depth. To take history as a mirror and promote Sino-French French all-round strategic partnership to new heights has become a common aspiration of the two peoples.

In today's world, both multi-polarity and economic globalization keep developing. China shares wide-ranging common interests with the EU countries, including France, and developing and strengthening China-EU ties is in the interests of both sides and the world at large.

At present, the European Union and China should cooperate more closely to tackle global challenges, such as the ongoing global financial crisis, food and energy security and climate change.

Unfortunately, however, the unwise move by France, the rotating EU presidency, on the Tibet issue has not only undermined Sino-French ties, but has also obstructed the process of dialogue, exchange and cooperation between China and the EU.

Obviously, the cause and responsibility for the current problematic situation of relations between China and France are not on the part of China. The Chinese government has reiterated time and again that China has all along valued its ties with France and will, as always, work hard to enhance the long-term sound development of Sino-French relations.

French leaders should, on the basis of facts and reason, show far-sighted political wisdom, honor their commitment and take effective measures to further the overall development of French-China relations. Otherwise, they can only hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and undermine the foundation of cooperation between the two countries. The French side is held fully responsible in such a scenario.

12/7/2008 3:15:35 AM


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