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Tibet crackdown goes on despite Olympics: Dalai Lama

August 15, 2008

AFP
August 13, 2008

PARIS (AFP) -- The Dalai Lama accused China Wednesday of pursuing its
crackdown in Tibet in spite of the Olympic Games, French lawmakers
said following talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Asked during a private meeting at the Paris Senate whether China was
respecting the "Olympic truce", the Dalai Lama's "answer was very
clear: no," said former French justice minister Robert Badinter.

"While the Games are taking place, the oppression of the Tibetan
people and repression continue," said the opposition lawmaker, who
oversaw the abolition of the death penalty in France.

The 73-year-old Buddhist leader, who arrived Monday for a 12-day
visit to France, "described terrible repression that has not stopped
despite the Olympic truce," added Socialist deputy Jean-Louis Bianco.

"Since March there have been arrests, executions and a fearsome
reinforcement of China's military presence."

He said the Buddhist leader suggested China was planning an
"accelerated policy of colonisation, with perhaps a million extra
Chinese who would come to occupy Tibet and dilute the Tibetan population."

The Dalai Lama's 90-minute talks with French lawmakers, held in a
small room at the Senate rather than a main reception suite, were the
only political encounter of a trip that falls squarely during the
Beijing Olympics.

But a minister announced Wednesday that President Nicolas Sarkozy
would host the Tibetan spiritual leader at a ceremony for Nobel peace
laureates in Paris on December 10.

Roger Karoutchi, secretary of state for relations with parliament,
said in a statement that "the president of the republic will receive
all Nobel peace prize winners, including the Dalai Lama, in Paris on
December 10."

He did not specify whether the two men would meet face to face.
Sarkozy's office did not confirm plans for a meeting.

Planned more than two years ago, the Dalai Lama's French visit
suddenly turned political after a Chinese crackdown on unrest in
Tibet in March that sparked international outrage.

Sarkozy was accused of giving in to Chinese pressure by not meeting
the Buddhist leader, instead sending his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to
see him inaugurate a Buddhist temple in southern France next week.

The Dalai Lama's entourage said he did not seek a meeting with
Sarkozy to avoid angering China.

Asked as he left the Senate whether he would answer the French
invitation, the Dalai Lama said he would be in the Netherlands on
December 10, but that he would "like" to come to Paris.

Speaking to reporters earlier, the Buddhist leader took a more
conciliatory line towards China, saying the international community
"mustn't isolate" the giant, and had a duty to bring it towards
greater democracy.

"The world community has more responsibility to bring China into
(the) mainstream of world democracy," he told a news conference.

"On certain principles... democracy, human rights, religious freedom,
rule of law... we must be firm."

France is struggling to mend ties with China frayed by Sarkozy's
initial threat to boycott the opening of the Beijing Games, together
with pro-Tibet protests during the passage of the Olympic flame through Paris.

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said
Wednesday he hoped that "France can properly handle Tibet-related issues."

The Buddhist leader will spend most of his remaining 10 days in
France teaching in the western city of Nantes. He repeated on
Wednesday that his visit was "mainly for spirituality, not political".

On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama gave his blessing to a new Buddhist temple
south of Paris, the largest country in a country that is home to an
estimated 770,000 Buddhists, three quarters of them of Asian origin.

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