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China lashes out at Dalai Lama, other Olympic critics

January 26, 2008

BEIJING 2008-01-24 (AP) - In a blast of harsh rhetoric, China lashed out
Thursday at the Dalai Lama and critics of Beijing's support for Sudan,
saying attempts to link political issues to the Beijing Summer Olympics
betrayed the spirit of the games.

«We can definitely not accept them,» Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang
Yu said in reference to rights groups which say China's support for
Sudan's government is prolonging the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur
region.

«To link the Darfur issue to the Olympics is a move to politicize the
Olympics and this is inconsistent with the Olympics spirit and will bear
no fruit,» Jiang told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.

Jiang also attacked the Dalai Lama as a religious phony seeking to split
China, a response to the exiled Tibetan leader's reported support for
peaceful protests during the Olympics.

Beijing's tough approach illustrates its extreme sensitivity toward
anything that might tarnish its staging of the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games.
Beijing has invested billions of dollars (euros) and massive national
prestige in what it hopes will be a glorious showcase of China's rapid
development from impoverished agrarian nation to rising industrial power.

A rising tide of criticism from rights groups, celebrities and
international media threatens to dampen the mood surrounding the games.

On Sunday, American actress Mia Farrow received widespread publicity
with an attempt to stage a protest at a former Khmer Rouge prison in
Cambodia over Chinese support for Sudan. Farrow has been working with
the U.S.-based advocacy group Dream for Darfur, which has been staging
mock Olympic-style torch-lighting ceremonies in places around the globe
that have suffered mass killings to call attention to the Darfur violence.

China has sold weapons to the Sudanese government and defended Khartoum
in the U.N. Security Council. Resource-hungry China buys two-thirds of
Sudan's oil exports and observers say Sudan's military receives up to 70
percent of oil royalties.

China counters the accusations by saying it plays a constructive role in
seeking to resolve the Darfur conflict, where more than 200,000 people
have died since a government-backed militia stepped up attacks in 2003.

China last year began deploying 315 non-combat troops to Darfur to
prepare for the arrival of a proposed 26,000-strong hybrid African
Union-U.N. peacekeeping force that has been delayed in part by Sudanese
President Omar al-Bashir's refusal to allow non-Africans to participate.

«The international community knows very well that the Chinese government
has played a positive and constructive role,» Jiang said. «Some
organizations are trying to make some sensations. This is to undermine
the preparation work of the Olympics and we are firmly against that.

While China routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama, a recent interview with
British broadcaster ITV News in which he reportedly gave his blessing
for protests at the Olympics put him in the focus again.
According to a transcript circulated by pro-Tibetan groups, the
72-year-old winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize said protests could
remind the Chinese public of government policies he says are eroding the
region's traditional Buddhist culture.

The Dalai Lama said Chinese repression in Tibet had gotten «certainly
worse» since China was awarded the Olympics in 2001.

«The goal of all of his schemes is to split the motherland, sabotage
ethnic unity, sabotage China's relations with other nations and
interfere with the Olympic Games,» Jiang said.

«So he is in no way a religious or spiritual leader. He is purely a
general leader bent on pursuing separatism and sabotaging national
unity,» she said.

China has also been angered by a series of overseas visits by the Dalai
Lama, who leads an India-based exile government. Beijing's relations
with Germany were strained for months after Chancellor Angela Merkel
received the Dalai Lama in September.

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