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China warns Germany over Dalai Lama meeting

September 26, 2007

BEIJING, September 25, 2007 (AFP) — China on Tuesday said that a meeting
between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama had damaged
ties between the two nations, and called for Berlin to quickly fix the
problem.

"This not only grossly interferes with the internal affairs of China, it
hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and seriously undermines
China-Germany relations," foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said when
asked about Sunday's meeting.

"We request that Germany... take concrete and effective measures to
eliminate the negative impact made by this mistaken move so as not to
bring any unnecessary damage to China-Germany relations."

Defying harsh warnings from China, Merkel held a historic meeting with
the Tibetan spiritual leader in Berlin on Sunday, during which she gave
support to the Dalai Lama's quest for greater cultural autonomy for his
homeland.

In an apparent response, China cancelled two top-level bilateral
meetings, one a standing breakfast between the countries' foreign
ministers on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly in New York.

However Jiang said that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi would now
meet his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in New York,
during which he would repeat China's stance.

"Foreign Minister Yang is going to explain once again China's solemn
position on the Dalai Lama issue," Jiang said while reiterating
Beijing's "strong dissatisfaction" over the meeting.

China has ruled Tibet since sending troops in to "liberate" the
Himalayan region in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled his homeland following a
failed uprising in 1959.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a political exile bent on establishing
an independent Tibet, an accusation the 1989 Nobel Peace price winner
has repeatedly denied.

He instead says he only wants greater autonomy and respect for Tibetan
culture and religion.

In Berlin, German government spokesman Thomas Steg insisted on Monday
that Germany valued its diplomatic and economic ties with China, and
said he believed there would be no serious fall-out from the meeting.

"The government has a great interest in preserving and deepening its
good relations with China," he told a press briefing.

Frank Umbach, the head of the research unit on China at the German
Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP that Beijing's indignant response
could prove to be a storm in a teacup.

"It is very important for China to save face, and the reaction is hardly
surprising if you take into account China's track record in such cases.
We saw the same in the 1990s towards France when it sold weaponry to
Taiwan."

"But I do not think we will see lasting damage."

China directed similar criticism at Australia after Prime Minister John
Howard met the Dalai Lama informally in June.

However Chinese President Hu Jintao continued with his planned visit to
Australia this month, during which lucrative trade deals were signed.

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