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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's party faults minister for Dalai Lama snub

May 11, 2008

The Guardian (UK)
May 10, 2008

BERLIN, May 10 (Reuters) - Leading German conservatives criticised Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Saturday for refusing to meet the Dalai Lama, saying his snub sent a message to China that Germany did not care about human rights.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat (SPD), was sharply critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to meet Tibet's spiritual leader last September in Berlin, a move which infuriated Beijing and soured relations between the countries for months.

The Dalai Lama, who is branded as a secessionist by China, is returning to Germany for a four-day visit at the end of next week, including a trip to Berlin on Monday where he is due to speak at the Brandenburg Gate.
Merkel will not see the Dalai Lama this time because she will be on a week-long trip to Latin America and Steinmeier has ruled out a meeting, sparking criticism from the spiritual leader's representatives as well as Merkel's conservatives.

"Foreign Minister Steinmeier risks creating the impression in China that human rights is not a central issue for the German government," Roland Koch, Christian Democrat (CDU) premier of Hesse and a Merkel ally, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"At a time when talks have begun between the Chinese and the exiled Tibetan leadership, this would be fatal."

Envoys of the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials held talks last Sunday following a series of riots and protests in Tibet that were the most serious challenge to Chinese rule of the mountainous region for nearly two decades.

China blames the Dalai Lama for the unrest, which has led to anti-China protests and calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

"I would have expected more courage from Steinmeier," Erwin Huber, head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) said.

Another influential conservative, Lower Saxony premier Christian Wulff, said it was Steinmeier's duty to get a first-hand report on the talks with China from the Dalai Lama, whose envoy described the discussions as a "good first step."

Merkel and Steinmeier have clashed repeatedly in recent years over policy towards China, Russia and Syria. Friction between the two could increase ahead of a 2009 election, in which Steinmeier may challenge Merkel for the chancellorship.

(Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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