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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Merkel Meets Dalai Lama Despite Chinese Criticism

September 24, 2007

Deutsche Welle, Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has met with the Dalai Lama on Sunday,
Sept. 23. The historic encounter -- the first of its kind -- drew fierce
criticism from Chinese officials.

According to German news agency DPA, Chinese officials -- unlike in the
past -- are not censoring insulting Internet postings directed against
Merkel that refer to the chancellor as a "witch" and say that she's
"playing with fire."

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of promoting independence for Tibet,
which Chinese soldiers occupied in 1950. The Dalai Lama has led a
Tibetan government-in-exile in India since 1959. He says that he does
not seek independence, but autonomy for his homeland.

Chinese officials, who had called on Germany not to allow the Dalai Lama
to enter the country, also cancelled a high-level meeting with German
Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries on patent right protection that was
meant to take place Sunday in Munich. "Technical reasons" were the
official explanation for the cancellation, according to a justice
ministry spokesperson.

Merkel with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing in
AugustBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:
  Merkel with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing in August

Merkel had been under pressure for days to cancel the meeting that
government officials describe as a "private exchange of ideas." Foreign
ministry officials reportedly urged Merkel to cancel the visit to avoid
any damage to Sino-German relations.

But government spokesman Thomas Steg said that it should be seen as part
of a series of meetings between the chancellor and global religious leaders.

"The meeting will take place, the invitation stands, and the chancellor
also extended the invitation very consciously," he said on Friday,
adding that the government was convinced that the encounter "will not
disturb the good state of German-Chinese relations and cooperation."

Support for chancellor across political spectrum Hesse Premier Roland
Koch, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and a long-time
supporter of the Dalai Lama, said Sunday that he was glad that Merkel
did not give in to Chinese pressure.

"We Germans can be happy and proud that human rights issues mean so much
to Angela Merkel and that she talks straight and acts accordingly,"
Koch, who accompanied the Dalai Lama to the chancellery, told Bild am
Sonntag tabloid.

Claudia Roth, the leader of the opposition Greens party, also backed
Merkel, saying that the chancellor acted responsibly by meeting with the
Dalai Lama. In an interview with German public radio Deutschlandfunk,
Roth, the human rights commissioner under the previous Red-Green
coalition government, said that human rights in Tibet were in Germany's

Dalai Lama: China displays "arrogance of power"

The Dalai Lama with a bust of himself in MünsterBildunterschrift:
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Looking on the bright
side: The Dalai Lama in Germany earlier this week

In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung published Saturday, the Dalai
Lama said that he didn't think the meeting would have a lasting negative
effect on relations between the two countries.

"It is simply China's attitude," he said. "It is the arrogance of power.
Beijing is meddling in the domestic affairs of Germany and demanding
that the German chancellor should not see me…Wherever I go, China
protests. The Chinese are simply testing how far they can go."

Merkel and the Dalai Lama posed for photographs following their meeting
at the chancellery, but did not make any statements to the press.
Merkel sets precedent

The Dalai Lama with George W. Bush in WashingtonBildunterschrift:
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  US President George W.
Bush has met the Tibetan spiritual leader on several occasions

It was the first time the Dalai Lama visited the German chancellery as
none of Merkel's predecessors received him.

The Tibetan leader, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has met with
other high-ranking German officials in the past, including former
President Richard von Weizsäcker and former foreign ministers Joschka
Fischer and Klaus Kinkel.

The latter's refusal to accept a white scarf -- the Dalai Lama's
signature gift as a sign of peace -- made headlines at the time.

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