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Merkel Meets Dalai Lama Despite Chinese Opposition

Posted September. 23, 2007 06:28,   


German Chancellor Angela Markel (photo) met the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, yesterday. Merkel is the first head of a German government to meet the Dalai Lama.

Merkel met with him despite strong complaints from China and concerned business leaders anxious to not provoke one of the world’s largest exporting countries.

Upon the announcement of Chancellor Angela Merkel`s planned meeting with the Dalai Lama, China`s government summoned the German ambassador to China, Michael Schaefer, on September 14 to register China’s opposition to the meeting.

Recently, the Dalai Lama told the weekly magazine Der Spiegel that, “Political leaders who used to meet me, avoid me after taking office as president or prime minister so as not to provoke China.”

However, Merkel was different. She met the Tibetan spiritual leader as a member of the opposition party in the past, and she met him after taking office, which is considered a brave action and could enhance Germany’s standing in the international arena as it may be seen as a reaction to alleged Chinese human rights violations.

The Dalai Lama also met with Austrian Prime Minister Alfred Gusenbauer on September 20. China informed the Austrian government that the meeting with the Dalai Lama would be considered interference with Chinese internal affairs, but Gusenbauer retorted that Vienna and Austria were just “venues for dialogue.”

Prior to that, in June, the religious leader met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. He will also be awarded the United States of America Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian honor, on October 17 in Washington D.C. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives made a decision last year to confer the medal on the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government responded to the decision by lodging a formal protest.

Past recipients of the Gold Medal include former South African president Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa. For the Dalai Lama, the medal is one of many international awards and honors he has received, but may rank second only behind the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Western attitudes toward the Tibetan leader are interpreted by some as a means to an end in order to put pressure on China ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to improve its human rights record.

Korea’s religious circles, and especially Buddhists, have invited the Dalai Lama on many occasions since 2000, but the Korean government refused to issue him a visa. Most countries allow his entry even if the head of the state does not meet him, however.