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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China postpones summit with EU over Dalai Lama visit

November 27, 2008

AFP
November 26, 2008

BRUSSELS (AFP) -- China has postponed a summit with the European
Union next week over a visit to Europe by the Tibetan spiritual
leader the Dalai Lama, the EU said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The Chinese authorities have informed the European Union of their
decision to request the postponement of the 11th European Union-China
summit, scheduled to take place on December 1," the statement said.

"They said their decision was due to the fact that the Dalai Lama
will at the same time undertake a new visit in several countries of
the Union and will meet on this occasion heads of state and government."

On November 14, China hit out at French President Nicolas Sarkozy's
planned meeting with the Dalai Lama in Poland next month, warning it
could hurt relations between the two countries.

France holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of next month.

The 73-year-old Buddhist leader is also due to visit the Czech
Republic and Belgium, where he is scheduled to address the European
Parliament in Brussels on December 4.

"The European Union, which set ambitious aims for the 11th European
Union-China summit, takes note and regrets this decision by China,"
the statement said.

The bloc said it planned to continue to "promote the strategic
partnership it has with China, particularly at a time when the world
economic and financial situation calls for close cooperation between
Europe and China."

The Dalai Lama and Sarkozy will both be attending ceremonies in
Poland to mark the 25th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel
Peace prize to Lech Walesa, the anti-communist union activist who
later became president.

The Buddhist leader was also awarded the prestigious prize in 1989.

No new date has been set for the summit, which was to be held in the
eastern French city of Lyon. The meetings are usually held annually
and alternate between a venue in China and Europe.

"The ball is in China's court," a spokeswoman for the EU's French
presidency said. "It took the responsibility of postponing this
summit. The door remains open, as far as we are concerned."

China and France went through a rough patch earlier this year when
Sarkozy said his attendance at the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony
was conditional on progress in talks between Beijing and Dalai Lama
envoys on the future of Tibet.

He did attend the ceremony, and later declined to meet the Dalai Lama
after Beijing warned that such direct contact would have serious
consequences for bilateral relations.

Protesters also disrupted the passage of the Olympic flame in several
cities -- including Paris -- following unrest in Tibet, which further
damaged relations between China and France, although these have since improved.

The Dalai Lama has sought "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet since he
fled his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese
rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.

China claims he actually seeks full independence.

The Dalai Lama met French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, human
rights minister Rama Yade and Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni on a visit
to France in August.
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