CHINA> National
Sarkozy-Dalai meeting draws Beijing's ire
By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-08 08:12

China Sunday lodged a strong protest against French President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama on Saturday, saying France should "shoulder all the consequences" of the action.

Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei summoned French Ambassador to China Herve Ladsous Sunday evening and lodged the protest, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama on Saturday even as France holds the rotating European Union (EU) presidency has damaged hard-won Sino-French relations, He said.

"The meeting grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, severely undermined China's core interests, gravely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and damaged the political basis of China-France and China-EU relations.

"The Chinese government firmly opposes and strongly protests the action," he said. "The French side should take full responsibility for that."

Sarkozy's mention of the so-called "duty of the rotating EU president" and the presence of the EU banner during the meeting appeared to drag the whole regional bloc into his action, which "set a very bad precedent", He said.

To protest against the announced meeting between Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama, Beijing made an unprecedented decision last month to put off the 11th China-EU Summit, scheduled for this month in France.

But the French president insisted on the meeting and sat down for half an hour of closed door talks in Gdansk, Poland, at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

That makes him the only European leader to meet the Dalai Lama while holding the EU's rotating presidency.

Feng Zhongping, director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Sarkozy had made a "bad" decision to drag the EU into the mire.

"Paris cannot represent the 27-nation bloc on this issue. There is even disagreement within the EU on the meeting and many countries are worried that would strain Sino-EU ties," Feng told China Daily on Sunday.

Now that Beijing is upset, the future of its relations with Paris is hard to predict as "many domestic groups in France would not take a laissez-faire attitude and let the government destroy their interests in China", he said.

Another expert said Sarkozy's move will hurt the interests of French companies, and those of the EU at large.

Wang Zhaohui, an expert on French studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said that Premier Wen Jiabao had planned to lead a delegation of up to 150 enterprises to the China-EU summit.

"The delegates were supposed to purchase goods worth 10 billion euros. So the delay of the summit also means a delay in these deals," he said.

Chinese netizens also voiced their opposition to the meeting, with some calling for the initiation of a "new round" of boycott of French goods.

Internet users in Shanghai began a three-day boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour starting on Saturday, which has met with strong response, according to a report in Shanghai-based

The disruption of the Olympic torch relay in Paris in April sparked a boycott of French products and enterprises including Carrefour, which later denied claims that it supported the Dalai Lama.