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Bush-Dalai Lama Meeting Criticized
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The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that the government criticized US President George W. Bush for meeting the Dalai Lama on Wednesday.

Liu Jianchao, ministry spokesperson, told the regular press conference in Beijing that "the Dalai Lama is not a simple or a pure religious figure. He is a political exile who undertakes secessionist activities abroad."

"We oppose meetings between him and other leaders," said Liu. "Other leaders should not provide a platform for him to separate the country."

On Tuesday, the Bush administration, in a report to Congress, labeled China a serious violator of religious freedom along with Myanmar, North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.

Liu said the State Department's annual report on religious freedom, which said China restricts religious practice to State-sanctioned groups, made groundless accusations.

"We urge the US Government to stop interfering in China's religious affairs under the guise of the religion issue," he said, adding all people in all regions in China enjoy religious freedom in accordance with the law.

But Liu said the two incidents would not overshadow Bush's visit to Beijing.

"The importance will not be diminished by a single incident," he said. "The visit will achieve its planned goals."

President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders are due to meet Bush when he visits China from November 19 to 21.

Liu said he hoped the upcoming visit would further promote bilateral relations.

He said Sino-US ties have been "going on smoothly" on the whole, and that good relations have brought concrete benefits to the peoples of both countries.

Liu said China hopes to narrow differences and promote mutual understanding and trust in order to enhance comprehensive bilateral cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

At the same press conference, Liu denied a report that luxury hotels in Beijing had been warned that they could be attacked by Islamist extremists, describing it as "sheer fabrication" and saying the online report was from an anonymous foreign citizen.

The US Embassy in Beijing posted a statement on its website on Wednesday saying luxury hotels in Beijing had been warned of an attack in the next week.

Liu said the Ministry of Public Security has never released such a warning and "is making an investigation into this case."

Liu also said China is willing to strengthen cooperation with South Asian countries to achieve common prosperity.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will hold its 13th summit on November 12 in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, and Liu said China wishes the summit great success.

Since the SAARC was set up 20 years ago, it has played an important role in promoting economic and social development in the South Asian region and China hopes it will make greater achievements in pushing forward regional cooperation, Liu said.

The SAARC summit was originally to be held in Dhaka from January 9 to 11 but was postponed due to the impact of the December 26 tsunami that devastated areas of three of its member states, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives.

It was then rescheduled for February 6-7, but was again put off as India refused to attend due to the political situation in Nepal and the security situation in Bangladesh.

The SAARC, established in December 1985, has seven member states: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. 

On aid to quake-hit Pakistan, Liu said China shipped its 10th batch of emergency disaster relief goods to the capital Islamabad on Wednesday night. Including the shipment, China has provided a total of US$26.73 million in aid to Pakistani victims.

A total of 1,911 tons of relief goods, including materials, cash and medical services, were airlifted by 24 planes to Pakistan after a powerful earthquake measuring 7.8 on Richter Scale on October 8, Liu said.

Sent in three batches, the emergency disaster relief goods included 4,674 tents, 24,000 bed quilts, 24,000 padded mattress, 9,200 blankets, 24,000 bed sheets and 900 power generating units, Liu said.

The death toll came to 73,276, according to figures released by Islamabad early in November.

On the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Liu said China expects the parties to enhance mutual trust and allay misgivings to jointly push forward the talks.

"The six parties conducted in-depth discussions in a pragmatic and positive atmosphere and set forth some constructive suggestions," Liu said.

China, as the host, has its own stance and opinions on the implementation of the Joint Statement, but it still needs to absorb some beneficial and positive contents from other parties, he said.

China expects the six parties to reach an optimal and balanced plan that can be accepted by all through in-depth consultation, Liu said.

As for divergences among the parties, it is "quite normal" and "expected" that different opinions exist on such an important and complicated issue, Liu said.

The second plenary session of the current round of talks was held in Beijing yesterday, at which all parties concerned continued to discuss the implementation of the goals set by the Joint Statement signed in September.

The fifth round of talks started on Wednesday morning at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. More bilateral consultations will be held on Friday, he said.

China has hosted four previous rounds of the talks since August 2003. The current phase of this round will probably last for three days, according to the Foreign Ministry.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2005)

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