After protests by Tibetan monks in Lhasa and other groups supporting Tibetan independence, the EU is to invite the Dalai Lama to Brussels, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday. China is furious.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of attempting to split Tibet from China
Kouchner told RTL radio Tuesday, April 1, that he and the bloc's other 26 foreign ministers will formally invite the Dalai Lama once a final decision has been made by Slovenia, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
"It sounds like a do-able idea, but this has to be discussed," Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told several journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels. "To invite the Dalai Lama, certainly that would be a great honor, a great event. The Dalai Lama is a very important religious leader."
Neither Kouchner nor Rupel suggested a date for the proposed meeting.
Hans-Gert Poettering, the president of the European Parliament has already invited the Dalai Lama to speak to the assembly in Strasbourg, France.
Outrage in China
People around the world, including a baby in Frankfurt, showed support for the monks
Chinese state media said China had voiced "strong dissatisfaction" after the EU foreign ministers' statement.
Chinese authorities are claiming that the Dalai Lama's followers orchestrated the unrest that broke out in the Himalayan region last month, when peaceful marches by Tibetan monks turned violent. Exiled Tibetans currently put the death toll from the Chinese crackdown at up to 140, with another 1000 injured and many detained.
Beijing strongly opposes talks between the Dalai Lama and foreign government officials and was angered by his meeting last September with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"We oppose his separatist activities," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters on Tuesday. "We oppose any officials of foreign countries providing support for the separatist activities by the Dalai Lama."
The government reiterated Tuesday that it opposed foreign nations providing support to what it believes is the Dalai Lama's attempts to split Tibet from China, reacting to reports that he may go to Japan and Europe.
"The Tibet issue is completely China's internal affair," Jiang Yu said, according to Xinhua news agency. "No foreign countries or international organizations have the right to interfere in it."
Suicide squad accusations
The protests last month extended to Nepal
The protests last month extended to Nepal
In a recent dramatic statement by Beijing in its offensive against the Dalai Lama, Tibetan independence forces were accused of planning to deploy "suicide squads" to carry out bloody attacks.
"To our knowledge, the next plan of the Tibetan independence forces is to organize suicide squads to launch violent attacks," said Public Security Bureau spokesman Wu Heping at a news conference Tuesday, without giving details of the alleged suicide squads.
He said police had arrested an individual who he claimed was an operative of the "Dalai Lama clique," responsible for gathering intelligence and distributing pamphlets calling for an uprising.
Wu also maintained that searches of monasteries had turned up large numbers of weapons.
Rebuttals call for proof
Tibetan authorities quickly dismissed the Chinese allegations and asked Beijing for evidence.
The India-based Tibetan government-in-exile said the claims were propaganda and reiterated the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was not opposed to Beijing hosting the Olympics Games in the summer.
"Instead of making baseless accusations, they, the Chinese government, need to give evidence in support of what they say," Thubten Samphel, spokesman of the Tibetan government-in-exile, told AFP.
Speaking by telephone from northern hill town of Dharamshala, where the Tibetan administration is headquartered, he said Buddhists see suicide as the "worst form of crime"
"Our struggle is non-violent and suicide attacks are unheard of in Buddhism. We believe the human form the most precious form on earth and such unsubstantiated claims do no service either to the Chinese or the Tibetan people," Samphel said.
The US called the Dalai Lama "a man of peace"
The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has repeatedly denied orchestrating the unrest and spoke out against the protests as soon as they turned violent in the restive region's capital Lhasa in March. He has always said he wants greater autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule, but also an end to repression there.
Nearly six decades after the Himalayan region was occupied by China, the Dalai Lama is widely seen as an iconic figure representing the Tibetan people on the world stage.
He has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
The US on Tuesday also rejected China's charges that the spiritual leader would back suicide attacks and called on the Chinese to engage in dialog with the Dalai Lama.
"The Dalai Lama is a man of peace," US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. "There's absolutely no indication that he wants to do anything other than have a dialogue with China to discuss how to deal with some of the serious issues there."