Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Sarkozy scorned for Dalai meeting

Nicolas Sarkozy in Brussels, 12 December 2008
Mr Sarkozy said he was not prepared to compromise European values

Chinese state media has launched a co-ordinated attack on French President Nicolas Sarkozy for meeting Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

One newspaper said he had shown the "wild ambition of a king of the world". Another accused him of his duplicity.

French websites have been hacked and material hostile to France and its president has appeared prominently on Chinese internet forums, reports say.

Mr Sarkozy countered that he would not compromise on "European values".

He met the 73-year-old Tibetan leader at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Poland last Saturday, despite Chinese protests.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of leading a movement for Tibet's full independence from China.

The spiritual leader said last week he was seeking autonomy within China, rather than independence from it, but he also urged the European Union - China's biggest trading partner - to stand up to Beijing on human rights.

'Little clown'

The meeting infuriated Beijing, with state media reporting Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei as saying it had "undermined the political foundations of Sino-French and Sino-European ties".

The French president knowingly offended the people he now says he wants to befriend, without showing repentance
China Daily editorial

In an article discussing "the wild ambition of the king of the world", the government-controlled Global Times described Mr Sarkozy as "a poor human rights defender" who had "roused the indignation of the Chinese people" with the meeting.

"The French president knowingly offended the people he now says he wants to befriend, without showing repentance," said the English-language China Daily in an editorial.

Meanwhile, Chinese online forums were peppered with derisory comments about the French president, with one of the less offensive insults calling him a "little clown".

Mutual interests

Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, the French president said he "regretted" the tensions with China, but insisted France was a friend of China, rather than a "vassal".

Nicolas Sarkozy, left, meets the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, 6 December 2008
Mr Sarkozy said he regretted any tensions caused by the meeting

"It is in Europe's interest to have good relations with China and it is in China's interest to have good relations with Europe," he said.

"We will find the means to talk again, but not at the price of denying our own European values."

In protest against the meeting, Beijing cancelled an EU-China summit which France - the current holder of the rotating presidency of the European Union - was to host.

China also warned bilateral trade ties could be damaged, but no reports of cancelled contracts have so far emerged.

Also on Friday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on China to continue its dialogue with the Dalai Lama's representatives after talks broke down last month.

"I hope the Chinese authorities will continue to resolve this issue through dialogue," he said.

Although Tibet has enjoyed long periods of self-rule, China maintains that it has always been an integral part of its territory.

Chinese Communist forces invaded the Himalayan region in 1950 and have ruled there ever since.

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