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China refuses to yield to pressure

As China raps the West for raising human rights, the Dalai Lama presses for 'dialogue and respect' to transform 'enemy'.
PTI | By Raghavendra, Beijing
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2008 01:39 AM IST

Refusing to yield to mounting global pressure, China on Saturday toughened its stand on Tibet and rapped the West for linking the issue to human rights even as the Dalai Lama pressed for "dialogue and respect" to transform "enemy".

In his first public comments on the unrest in Tibet, President Hu Jintao said, "Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem. It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland."

In Seattle, the Dalai Lama skirted a question on turmoil in Tibet but said "the only way to transform our enemy to become our friend is dialogue, respect.... That's a way of compassion."

In Washington, President George W Bush kept the suspense on his attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in August that has been marred by boycott calls.

"My plans haven't changed," he said in a television interview, adding he viewed it as an opportunity to support the US athletes and it was not a statement on the politics of the host country.

"I don't view the Olympics as a political event," Bush, who met the Dalai Lama earlier this week, told ABC News, adding that he had been raising the issue of religious freedom and human rights with Chinese leaders regularly.

In his meeting with Australian President Kevin Rudd at Sanya on the sidelines of Boao Forum for Asia, Hu said the "barrier" to talks lies on the side of the Dalai Lama".

The remarks by Hu, who was the party boss in Tibet during the crackdown on anti-China unrest in 1989, came as Western leaders, including Rudd, ratcheted up pressure on Beijing to open talks with the Dalai Lama after the most sustained and vicious protests in the last two decades, with some even linking the Tibet issue to Olympics.

The US House of Representatives had passed a resolution urging China to end the crackdown and hold dialogue with the Tibetan leader living in exile in India.

Adding to China's anger, the European Parliament followed up with another resolution that asked EU leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics unless China opened dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

Hitting back, China's parliament, National People's Congress, came out in a rare such response, calling the EP resolution an "arrogant interference" in its internal affairs that would damage Sino-Europe relations and asking EP to "get rid of the ideological bias".

It also dismissed as "slander" the EP's resolution's description of China's action as "a cruel crackdown on Tibetan demonstrators" and said it was unacceptable to the Chinese government.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has already joined world leaders such as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who will skip the Beijing Olympics ceremony as the Games' torch, which underwent a tortuous route in the wake of massive anti-China protests, had a trouble-free parade in Buenos Aires from where it was taken to Tanzania .

Ban is not going to Beijing because of scheduling issues. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said that they plan to stay away from the ceremony.

The Tibetan leader, whom China blames for the unrest that has claimed 20 lives in violence, was in Seattle to address a conference on compassion. The monk has rubbished the charge of his involvement and asked China not to treat him like a "demon".

In his first trip to the US since the recent Tibet unrest, the 72-year old Nobel laureate did any mention the turmoil in the Himalayan region and spoke of how "even warfare can (be conducted) out of compassion.

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