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Sarkozy hardline remarks stir up more controversy
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy stirred controversy in Sino-French relations again by making hardline remarks on a possible meeting with the Dalai Lama, just one day after meeting President Hu Jintao.

In an address at the European Parliament on Thursday, Sarkozy insisted that he will take no heed of China's concerns on whether he would meet the Dalai Lama.

"There are things that China must not tell European countries," Sarkozy said. "It's not up to China to set my agenda and my meetings."

"Is it illegal to meet the Nobel Prize laureate? I wonder who could possibly stop me from doing such a thing," he said.

The French president's tone sharply contrasted with the one taken when he met his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Toyako, Japan.

Sarkozy told Hu that his government would adhere to the one-China policy.

The French leader also confirmed he will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, despite his previous threats to boycott the Games.

In the address at the European Parliament on Thursday, Sarkozy firmly defended his decision on the Olympics and stressed the importance of engagement with China.

But his words on a possible meeting with the Dalai Lama pointed to inconsistency in his China policy.

Zhao Junjie, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said Sarkozy, representing the new generation of European leaders, has displayed a "two-faced" character in dealing with China.

"When Chinese people were enraged by the chaos during the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay, we saw a sensible Sarkozy who tried to repair the damaged relationship by sending envoys to China and a personal letter to the disabled torchbearer attacked in Paris," Zhao said.

"But now we see an obsessed one who makes tough and high-profile remarks on such sensitive issues as a possible meeting with the Dalai Lama," he said.

On Wednesday, Chinese Ambassador to France Kong Quan restated during talks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that the Chinese government is firmly opposed to a meeting between Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama

"No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another. And Tibet is purely a Chinese matter," Kong said.

Meanwhile, a member of the European Parliament (EP) said that only the Chinese are entitled to evaluate the condition of human rights in their country.

"The human rights situation in China cannot be decided by others but should be decided by the 1.3 billion Chinese people themselves," British legislator Nirj Deva said.

Despite Sarkozy's inconsistency regarding China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Thursday dismissed concerns over potential anti-French protests during the Games, saying that the Chinese people enjoy a tradition of hospitality.

(China Daily July 12, 2008)

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