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China warns Paris over city honor for Dalai Lama

May 8, 2009

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Associated Press
2009-05-07 07:33 PM    
China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday warned the Paris city council not
to formally bestow honorary citizenship on the Dalai Lama, saying that
would likely spark a renewal of furious anti-French sentiment among Chinese.

The council voted last April 21 in favor of making the exiled Tibetan
leader an hononary citizen, but it has not yet staged a ceremony to
bestow the award _ the apparent target of ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu's
remarks.

Last year's vote helped fuel a wave of anti-French sentiment among many
Chinese, adding to bitterness over chaotic protests accompanying the
Beijing Olympic torch relay through the French capital and suggestions
by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he might skip the games'
opening ceremony.

"If the Paris city government does make this award it will definitely
meet once again with the Chinese people's firm opposition," Ma said at a
regularly scheduled news conference.

"We urge the Paris side to stop doing things that interfere into China's
internal affairs and make no further errors on Tibet-related issues," he
added.

An official from Paris City Hall confirmed Thursday that the city of
Paris already granted honorary citizenship on the Dalai Lama. The
official, who declined to give his name in accordance with City Hall
policy, said he didn't know plans for any events to honor the Dalai Lama
during his June visit to Paris but could not rule out that an event
might be in the works.

Beijing regards the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, as an
agent of Tibet's independence from China and works relentlessly to
isolate him internationally. China objects to all meetings between the
Dalai Lama and foreign leaders and defines shunning him as a fundamental
principle underlying its relations with other countries.

The Dalai Lama is due to visit Paris June 6-8.

Ties with France have only recently recovered from a monthslong freeze
following a meeting between Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama in Poland in
December.

China froze high-level contacts and shut France out of lucrative
European buying trips by Chinese delegations. Ties were only righted
after France last month pledged to reject Tibetan independence in "any
form" _ a reference to Beijing's claim that the Dalai Lama seeks to
separate Tibet from China.

That statement widely interpreted as a tacit commitment not to permit
meetings between the Dalai Lama and high-level French officials.
However, no such commitment was made by the Paris city council or the
city's opposition Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe.

Hinting that ties might not be strong enough to emerge unscathed from
another flap over the Dalai Lama, Ma said relations had only gotten back
on track through the "concerted efforts of people on both sides."

All French politicians should "promote the sound and stable development
of bilateral relations," he said.
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