China warns foreigners about meetings with Dalai Lama
Kyodo News[Thursday, May 17, 2007 21:18]
China urged foreign governments Thursday not to support the Dalai Lama ahead of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to Australia next month.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the Dalai Lama is not just a religious figure, but also has the political aim of splitting China.

"The words and deeds of the Dalai Lama over the past decade have shown that he is not purely a religious figure. He is a political exile engaged in activities aimed at splitting China. He represents a force representing Tibetan independence, which the Chinese government and people resolutely oppose," she said.

Jiang added that she hopes "relevant countries will stay on high alert...and will not give support to the Dalai Lama's clique."

The comments come after Australian Prime Minister John Howard suggested Wednesday that he might meet with the Dalai Lama, who will be in Australia from June 6 to 16 for several speaking events.

"My position is I'm looking at my diary," Howard told reporters. Still, he said, "You can't have a situation where you're always meant to meet anybody who comes to the country."

Howard said he met with the Dalai Lama in the latter's role as a religious leader when he visited Australia in September 1996, the same year Howard became prime minister. At that time, he recalled, "It was obvious the Chinese did not want me to meet him and I did."

During the Dalai Lama's last visit in 2002, Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer declined to meet him, which led to Downer being chastised as "weak" by the opposition Labor Party's then foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, who is now its leader.

The Dalai Lama's upcoming visit has become a political football in Australia, with Rudd being labeled a hypocrite for having refused to meet the Buddhist leader despite his past criticism of the same, only to flip-flop after Howard's comments about a possible meeting.

The Dalai Lama has been in exile since an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet in 1959. He won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his consistent resistance to the use of violence in his campaign for greater Tibetan autonomy.