TOPICS : Sino-EU ties may suffer over Dalai visit

China has attacked the Dalai Lama over his latest diplomatic forays in Europe, calling the exiled Tibetan leader a separatist and a “political hooligan” and has warned that China-EU relations may suffer. French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama on the weekend privately in Gdansk, Poland, during celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of former Polish President Lech Walesa winning the Nobel Peace prize. The meeting is significant as France currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. The Gdansk gathering was also loaded with political symbolism. The Dalai Lama is also a Nobel Peace laureate, winning the prize for his long and non-violent pursuit of autonomy for his Himalayan homeland. And then the Buddhist leader was invited to the port city to join celebrations for Walesa’s award for leading the Polish Solidarity movement in a peaceful struggle against the then communist regime. “If I were in the country of his Holiness, I would fight there too,” Walesa told a youth forum on the weekend, speaking in debates alongside the Dalai Lama. The former union leader is revered as an icon of peaceful resistance that burgeoned in Poland and swept over to other Eastern European countries, eventually bringing down the Berlin Wall and leading to the collapse of communism.

“There is no situation where there is no chance, you just have to choose your means and your strength and time to reshape the political scene at the right time,” Walesa was reported as saying. The day before while addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, the exiled Tibetan leader fired another salvo at Beijing, saying China lacked the moral authority to be a true superpower. But nothing angered Beijing as much as the Lama’s meeting with Sarkozy. On several occasions last week China demanded that the French President cancel his planned meeting and even called off a key China-EU summit scheduled for this month as a warning.

On Sunday, Beijing summoned the French ambassador to China and lodged a “strong protest,” according to the state news agency Xinhua. The meeting amounts to a “rude intervention” into Chinese affairs, the agency quoted deputy foreign minister He Yafei as telling the ambassador. “Sarkozy gave no consideration to numerous Chinese citizens’ intense opposition to seeing the Dalai Lama,” he said. The eight rounds of talks between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and Beijing held in November ended in failure after Chinese negotiators said the proposal for autonomy put forward by the Tibetans amounted to ethnic cleansing, disguised independence and the reintroduction of serfdom and theocracy.

In recent months, the Tibetan Youth Congress, a group of younger and more radical exiles disillusioned with the dialogue with Beijing, has advocated independence for Tibet through a series of confrontational protests. But the majority of the exiled community voted in support of the Dalai Lama’s peaceful dialogue for autonomy, reflecting the spiritual leader’s continued sway among Tibetans. —IPS