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China lodges strong protest to France
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China on Sunday lodged a strong protest against French President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama, saying it "severely undermined China's core interest".

Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei summoned French Ambassador to China Herve Ladsous on Sunday evening, lodging a strong protest, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Sarkozy persisted in meeting the Dalai Lama on Saturday as French president, who also holds the rotating EU presidency, in total disregard of Chinese people's strong opposition and repeated representations by the Chinese side. "This grossly interfered in China's internal affairs," He said.

"It also severely undermined China's core interest, gravely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and sabotaged the political basis of China-France and China-EU relations.

"The Chinese government firmly opposes and strongly protests against the action," the deputy foreign minister said.

Sarkozy had publicly stressed his obligation as the rotating EU presidency to meet the Dalai Lama and there was an EU flag at the meeting site.

"All these showed the French side was imposing its wrongdoing on the EU, which set an extremely bad precedent."

The wrong action damaged the hard-earned political mutual trust, comprehensive cooperation and favorable prospect created since the establishment of the China-France ties 45 years ago, He said, adding the French side should carry all the grave aftereffect.

"We urge the French side to take the bilateral relations and interests of the two peoples as priority, truly attach importance to China's solemn and just stance and reasonable concerns, fully understand the damage generated from the meeting between President Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama on bilateral relations as well as China-EU relations, and take concrete actions to correct the mistakes on the Tibet-related issues," He said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, in a separate statement on Sunday, also rebuked Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama.

China had repeatedly warned France recently of the possible aftereffect, requesting the French side properly handle the Tibet-related issues and create essential atmosphere and conditions for the normal development of the China-France and China-EU relations, said Liu.

"Regrettably, the French leader went on his own way obstinately on major issues related to China's core interests and caused severe damage to bilateral relations.

"China is unwilling to see such a situation, and believes the overwhelming majority who are committed to China-France and China-EU friendship in all walks of life do not want to see this. The French side should bear full responsibility for the matter."

Sarkozy held a half-hour meeting with the Dalai Lama on Saturday in the Polish city of Gdansk.

His meeting with the Dalai Lama sparked online anger among Chinese netizens.

A survey conducted on Huanqiu.com, affiliated to the People's Daily newspaper, showed about 97 percent of netizens feel "indignant" at Sarkozy's "brazen" meeting with the Dalai Lama. By 10 p.m. Sunday, the survey received more than 63,055 votes.

Last week, China put off the 11th China-EU Summit, scheduled for early December in France, due to Sarkozy's decision to meet the Dalai Lama.

China had no choice but to react, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Nov. 28 in a statement.

The government's decision to postpone the summit won overwhelming support from the country's online population.

The online backlash is the latest in a string of rows targeting France.

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

In July, another online survey covering more than 170,000 people showed more than 89 percent of the respondents did not want Sarkozy to attend the Olympic opening ceremony.

The French leader had earlier said that whether he would attend the ceremony depended on the progress of talks between the Chinese government and the private representatives of the Dalai Lama.

(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2008)

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