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Criticism from China - Angela Merkel, Witch Playing with Fire

September 25, 2007

The first, historical meeting between a German Chancellor and the
Buddhist spiritual leader has sparked fierce criticism from China.

Ivona Baric
Tomislav Tustic, Croatia
September 24, 2007

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had an informal, private meeting with
Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Sunday, openly defying
official warnings from Beijing and ignoring industrials at home who
voiced apprehension about the meeting adversely affecting bonds of
commerce with China.

Last week, Merkel was under an unusual amount of pressure to cancel the
meeting that may have a damaging effect on the relations between the
countries. This time, China officials did not censor provocative
outbursts on the Internet, where the Chancellor was either directly
assaulted or treated to such colourful terms as, for instance, the
German “witch playing with fire.”

In order to publicly voice opposition, Beijing cancelled a meeting with
German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, who was to discuss patent
protection with her Chinese colleagues on Sunday.

The cancellation note sent from the Ministry cited “technical reasons.”

Roland Koch, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and
long-time supporter of the Dalai Lama, said on Sunday that he was glad
that the Chancellor had not relented under 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 told German newspaper Bild.

Other German politicians joined in the praise today.

China’s daring arrogance

In an interview given to Süddeutsche Zeitung before meeting the
Chancellor, the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, voiced doubt
that the meeting may have negative consequences on the relations between
the two countries.

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

There were no statements for the press after the meeting, but some
German media have quoted the Dalai Lama saying that Merkel “kept old
friendships” and that he was very happy about this. Quietly, yet
symbolically, Angela accepted the traditional white scarf the spiritual
leader presents as a symbol of peace, a move Germany’s former Foreign
Minister Klaus Kinkel refrained from making.

Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1950 and the Dalai Lama,
living in exile in India since 1959, often reminds that his goal is not
an independent state, but the recognition of Tibet’s autonomy.

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