Dalai Lama Hits Out At China 'Death Sentence'

June 6th 2009

Paris, France, 6 June 2009 (By Ingrid Bazinet, AFP) - The Dalai Lama said Saturday that China has imposed a "death sentence" on Tibet as he arrived in Paris for a visit that China has strongly opposed.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is to be named an honorary citizen of the French capital despite warnings from the Chinese government that his arrival will harm relations with France.

On his arrival in Paris, the Dalai Lama criticised China about events in Tibet since protests were staged last year.

"Since March 2008 I have the feeling that a very old nation and its heritage and culture have received a death sentence," told reporters at Paris airport.

"The Chinese government makes a hard line policy, but the Chinese people are ignorant of the situation. The international community must go there to investigate, without restrictions," he added.

The Dalai Lama, 73, is to be made an honorary citizen of Paris on Sunday.

He is also to meet pro-Tibetan French lawmakers, members of the Chinese and Tibetan community in France and address a gathering at a Paris sports stadium.

Officials have said it is a coincidence that the Dalai Lama is in France at the same time as US President Barack Obama and that there are no plans for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to meet top political representatives.

"Once more I'm very happy to come to France. The main reason of my visit is to receive the honour citizen of Paris," the Dalai Lama said in his comments to reporters. He said it was "a great honour".

The Dalai Lama added that "it's an opportunity to meet my old friends among politicians, business men, intellectuals and ordinary people."

France is the fourth and final leg of his latest European tour, which he has insisted is not political, but China has given strong warnings to European governments.

France and China have only just patched up relations following Beijing's anger over Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama in December.

Last month China warned France not to make more "errors" on Tibet.

"If the Paris city government does make this award, it will definitely meet once again with the Chinese people's firm opposition," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that Beijing saw such moves as meddling in its internal affairs.

The socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, has said the award is an initiative of the city and not of the French state.

But those assurances did nothing to assuage the anger in Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1959, of seeking independence for Tibet from Chinese rule.

Delanoe said "there is no question of interfering" but that "there was also no question of renouncing my convictions, without seeking to be provocative."

The Dalai Lama kicked off his latest European tour in Denmark last Friday and has also visited Iceland and Poland.

 

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