Page last updated at 20:01 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 21:01 UK

French capital honours Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama denies playing a political role in Tibet

The Dalai Lama has been made an honorary citizen of Paris, as anti-French protests continue in China.

Paris city council voted to bestow the symbolic title on the Tibetan spiritual leader, whom Mayor Bertrand Delanoe called "a champion of peace".

The move was opposed by the party of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been trying to ease tense ties with Beijing.

Chinese protesters have been picketing French supermarket Carrefour, accusing it of supporting the Dalai Lama.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of inciting unrest in Tibet - claims he has denied.

Chinese officials are launching a two-month "patriotic education" in Tibet, in which Communist Party officials and local people will gather to denounce the spiritual leader.

Paris wants to show its support for the people of Tibet
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, insists he has no political role and played no part in the protests by Tibetan Buddhist monks that erupted into rioting in the main city Lhasa last month.

But he condemned the Chinese crackdown that followed, and accused Beijing of committing "cultural genocide" in Tibet.

Tibetan sympathisers and human rights activists have since used the worldwide tour of the Olympic torch to protest against Beijing's hosting of the Olympic Games this August.

Mayor Delanoe said in honouring the Dalai Lama, Paris wanted "to show its support for the people of Tibet who are defending their most basic right to dignity, freedom and simply life".

'Outstanding courage'

The gesture came as France's president expressed sympathy for a disabled Chinese athlete who was jostled by a pro-Tibetan activist as she held the Olympic torch in Paris.

Christian Poncelet (R) and Chinese athlete Jin Jing in Shanghai, 21/04
Christian Poncelet of the French Senate delivered the letter to Ms Jin

In a letter to 27-year-old Paralympian fencer Jin Jing, Nicolas Sarkozy told her she had shown "outstanding courage" in the face of the assault.

"I want to assure you that the incidents staged by a few people on this sad day don't reflect the feelings of my fellow countrymen for the Chinese people," Mr Sarkozy wrote.

The Paris incident was the catalyst that sparked an outburst of anti-French protests in China.

Online activists there have spent weeks urging a boycott of French goods.

Over the weekend thousands of people demonstrated outside Carrefour stores in China.

The company has issued a statement denying that it supports the Dalai Lama, and declaring support for the Beijing Olympics.

China urges 'rational' protests
20 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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