China condemns US Gold Medal award to Dalai Lama


Beijing : China Thursday criticised the US for its planned award to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of a Gold Medal at a ceremony that US President George W. Bush is scheduled to attend next week.

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“China has made solemn representations to the US and clearly stated our position that we oppose the award of the Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

“We are against any country and any people using this issue to interfere with China’s internal affairs,” Liu told reporters.

The White House Wednesday said the US Congress planned to award the 72-year-old Buddhist leader its Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honour, on Oct 17 at the Capitol building, the legislature’s seat.

Other recent recipients of the medal include the late Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, the late Pope John Paul II and former British prime minister Tony Blair.

A White House spokeswoman said Bush planned to attend the event with the Dalai Lama, but she did not say if the Dalai Lama would visit the White House.

The Tibetan leader has met Bush three times at the White House, most recently in November 2005.

China heavily criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel after she met the Dalai Lama last month, the first meeting between a serving chancellor and the Tibetan leader.

The Chinese government issued two major commentaries on the Dalai Lama this week, with People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, Thursday accusing him of a “betrayal of Buddhism.”

The Dalai Lama was “playing with the divine Buddhism to achieve political goals and purposely mislead the public, which fully demonstrates his hypocrisy in faith,” the newspaper said.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s highest leader, fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against the occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops since 1951.

He remains as popular as ever among ordinary Tibetans. Most Tibetans support his calls for maximum autonomy and religious freedom for Tibet within China, although many still favour independence.

But Beijing continues to accuse him of seeking independence and blames him for the lack of dialogue.