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China protest at EU-Dalai meeting

Nicolas Sarkozy, left, meets the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, 6 December 2008
Nicolas Sarkozy appealed for calm about the encounter

China has "lodged a strong protest" against France over Saturday's meeting between the French president and the Dalai Lama, Chinese state media report.

Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei summoned the French ambassador to China to protest, Xinhua news agency said.

"This has undermined the political foundations of Sino-French and Sino-European ties," Mr He told the envoy.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Poland when he met Mr Sarkozy.

In protest at the meeting, Beijing cancelled an EU-China summit last week which France was to host early this week.

France currently hold the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Mr Sarkozy is in Poland for a meeting with nine EU eastern member states on the bloc's climate change plans.

The French president, who did not meet the Buddhist leader when he visited France in August, appealed for calm about Saturday's meeting.

"The world needs an open China that participates in global governance," said Mr Sarkozy. "China needs a powerful Europe that gives work to Chinese enterprise."

Mutual need

The 73-year-old Dalai Lama this week told European lawmakers he was seeking autonomy within China - not independence from it.

But he also urged the EU - China's biggest trading partner - to stand up to Beijing on human rights.

The Chinese believe that we have the power to enforce discipline among the [27] countries of the European Union
France EU presidency statement

His meeting with Mr Sarkozy has prompted grass-roots anger among Chinese citizens, some of whom have called for a boycott of French goods.

At a Beijing branch of the French supermarket chain Carrefour, Zhang Mengguang told the BBC that if the meeting went ahead, "we will not shop at Carrefour or buy French products again".

Carrefour, the biggest purchaser of Chinese goods in France, employs thousands of people in China.

Non-violent methods

French officials say the fierceness of China's response is because of France's current position as rotating EU president.

The Dalai Lama speaks at the EU parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 4 December 2008
The Dalai Lama has called for Tibetan autonomy within China

But they have also emphasised that France and China continue to need each other during a period of economic crisis.

"The Chinese believe that we have the power to enforce discipline among the [27] countries of the European Union," a French presidential official told Reuters news agency.

"We are not the teachers of the European classroom."

Chinese authorities call the Dalai Lama a wolf in monk's clothing and a devil with a human face, hell-bent on breaking Tibet away from China, the BBC's Oana Lungescu has 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 Tibet in 1950 and have ruled there ever since.

The Dalai Lama is on a tour of European countries that has included meetings with the Belgian and Czech prime ministers as well as fellow Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Lech Walesa, the former Polish president.

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