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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."

Sarkozy snubs Dalai Lama, Carla does not

August 24, 2008

Radio France24
August 22, 2008

The Dalai Lama capped his 12-day visit to France with a meeting with
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Despite a presidential snub, the
Tibetan leader met with first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. But the issue
continues to strain Sino-French relations.

Capping a controversial visit to France during the Beijing Olympics,
the Dalai Lama met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and
first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy for the inauguration of a Buddhist
temple in a southern French town Friday. But French President Nicolas
Sarkozy, however, was not present, sparking criticism from the
opposition Socialist party.

Accompanied by a barefoot Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the Dalai Lama
prostrated himself before the statue of Buddha inside the temple,
before saluting Kouchner in the audience. Earlier, the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader led a procession around the temple under the driving rain.

The Tibetan spiritual leader's 12-day visit to France has sparked
furor in Beijing, with China warning Sarkozy that any personal
meeting the Dalai Lama would have "serious consequences" for
bilateral relations between France and China. On Wednesday, Beijing
warned France to prudently deal with the "important and sensitive"
issue of Tibet. Bruni-Sarkozy and Kouchner are scheduled to hold
private talks with the Tibetan leader after the inauguration.

In the wake of worsening relations between Paris and Beijing,
Kouchner came close to cancelling the meeting with the Dalai Lama. On
Sunday, Kouchner announced that the crisis in Georgia had upset his
agenda and had insisted that the 73-year-old Nobel Peace prize's
visit was a "private affair" with "no pomp and ceremony."

The Dalai Lama is also expected to meet with French Human Rights
Minister Rama Yade, who has been accused of having a confused stance
on Tibet. In April, Yade had declared that Sarkozy would attend the
Beijing Olympics on three conditions, including a halt to violence
against civilians and the launch of talks with the Tibetan spiritual
leader. The French government -- and Yade - later denied these
conditions had been set

On August 8, Sarkozy attended the opening of the Beijing Olympics
despite the decision of European counterparts such as British PM
Gordon Brown and German chancellor Angela Merkel not to attend the ceremony.

The French opposition Socialist Party has slammed what they see as
the "permanent incoherence" of the government's stance on Tibet.

The Tibetan spiritual leader has already been met with muted
enthusiasm by the French government during his visit. Denied an
official welcome at the Senate, the Dalai Lama was received in an
ordinary office at the Senate on August 13. In an interview with Le
Figaro, the right-wing MP Lionnel Luca, president of the French
parliamentary commission on Tibet, slammed the welcome as "shameful."

In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, the Dalai Lama
declared that he had not come to Paris with "a political agenda" and
had come to work on the "promotion of human values and dialogue
between religions." However, he hoped that after the Olympic Games,
Sarkozy, as head of the rotating presidency of the European Union,
will make some "constructive proposals to the Chinese government."

To and fro between compromise and criticism

Pro-Tibet protests in France and criticism of China's human rights
track record in recent months have angered Beijing and provoked a
flurry of French diplomatic moves to appease an important trading partner.

In March 2008, the media was a-buzz with Sarkozy's hints of a boycott
of the Beijing Olympics to punish China for its policy in Tibet.
While western leaders had stopped short of threatening to boycott the
Games, Sarkozy said "all options" were open and that he would make a
decision to go to Beijing depending on China's human rights track record.

Anti-French demonstrations broke out in China in April when
pro-Tibetan demonstrations disrupted the Olympic torch relay in
Paris. Passing through Paris under armed guard, the torch was
extinguished several times.

The unruly scenes on the streets of Paris during the relay, the
Dalai-Lama's August visit and Sarkozy's ambiguous statements have all
contributed to strained bilateral relations. In China, several
thousand protesters targeted French retail giant Carrefour last
April, demonstrating outside outlets across the country. According to
the AFP, official Chinese media had called on readers to show
"reasonable patriotism."

French diplomats later sought to calm the anti-French sentiment in
China, an important trading partner. The president of the French
Senate, Christian Poncelet, visited Shanghai to appease the
situation. Sarkozy also wrote a letter to the wheelchair-bound
Chinese fencer who had carried the Olympic torch through embattled
Paris. Jin Jing had to fend off attempts to grab the flame during the relay.

At a time of voter discontent over a slowing economy and declining
spending power in France, China is an important trading partner.
According to 2007 French Chamber of Commerce report, France is the
second most important European supplier to China after Germany. In
2006, the turn-over of French companies established in China
increased by 25% and reached a total of 20 billion euros.
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