Chinese observers believe an invitation from Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe to the Dalai Lama could derail Sino-French relations just as they were getting back on track.
Delanoe's spokesman, Laurent Fary, confirmed that the mayor has invited the Dalai Lama to the French capital in early June to collect the title of honorary citizen of the city, which he was awarded in 2008.
Earlier this month, Beijing urged Paris not to interfere in China's internal affairs by meeting the Dalai Lama.
The French foreign ministry played down the significance of the invitation, saying it was made independently by the city and "should have no impact on the caliber of our relations with China".
But Wu Baiyi, an expert on European studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Paris, as part of France, is obliged to coordinate its acts according to a communiqu agreed by the two foreign ministries on April 1 that stated that France fully recognized "the sensitivity of the Tibet issue" and that France would not support "Tibet independence" in any form.
"France will need to act upon the promise as a whole, though political parties in France might take different views," Wu said. He noted that the mayor of Paris belongs to the Socialist Party, while France is governed by the center-right Union for a Popular Movement.
Feng Zhongping, chief of European studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Paris should be "very careful" with future moves related to Tibet to avoid sparking a renewal of protest in China.
He pointed out that Sino-French relations were dampened after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in Poland last December. The relationship did not get back on track until early April.
"Awarding the title to the Dalai Lama provoked a wide range of indignation in China last year and serious results. Any further activation could cause harm to the relationship," Feng said.
"A good Sino-French relationship is hard-won and France should avoid derailing relations again," he said.
(China Daily May 28, 2009)