Dalai Lama meets a top German official – but only one
European leaders are struggling to balance growing trade ties with China and deep public sympathy for Tibetans and their exiled leader, wrapping up his first stop on a global tour.
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In Germany, where he wraps up a five-day visit Monday, there has been widespread public outrage that top politicians have declined to meet the exiled Tibetan leader. Meanwhile China is fuming over the one cabinet-level meeting he has landed, with Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.
"We object to a member of the German government receiving the Dalai Lama and to Germany allowing him to carry out this visit," Junhui Zhang, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Berlin said Friday, adding that the meeting violates Germany's "one-China" policy and threatens the "stable development of bilateral relations."
The row in Germany is a sign of the delicate balancing act facing European nations as they struggle to reconcile their growing trade ties to China with concern over the nation's human rights record and deep public sympathy for Tibetans and their leader – more popular here than the German-born pope.
Last fall, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has made human rights a hallmark of her foreign policy, personally received the Dalai Lama. But the meeting put a chill on German-Chinese relations.
This time he has gotten a cooler welcome. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and President Horst Köhler both declined to meet the Nobel Peace Laureate, citing scheduling conflicts, as have other members of the German cabinet. Critics charge that Berlin is succumbing to pressure from the Chinese.
"Steinmeier risks creating the impression in China that human rights is not a central issue for the German government," said Roland Koch, governor of the south German state of Hesse, last week. "At a time when talks have begun between the Chinese and the exiled Tibetan leadership, this would be fatal."