China protests over Dalai Lama’s Prague visit


Prague : China protested Thursday against a Prague visit by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and Uighur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer.

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They arrived in the Czech capital to attend a conference on human rights and democracy in Asia.

Chen Jianjun, spokesman for the Chinese embassy, said the visits were aimed at “dividing the state and disrupting national unity”.

“The Chinese side is resolutely against it,” he said by telephone. “We clearly expressed our position to the Czech side.”

The Czech foreign ministry countered that Kadeer was in the Czech Republic on a private visit.

“It is not possible to interpret it as a change of our traditional policy of one China, nor as an expression of support to potential separatist tendencies,” the ministry said in a statement.

Neither the embassy nor the ministry would specify the nature of the Chinese complaint.

The Dalai Lama and Kadeer are to address a conference Friday promoting human rights and democracy in Asia, an event put on by former Czech president Vaclav Havel’s foundation Forum 2000.

It remains to be seen whether the Dalai Lama would meet with Czech government officials Friday, foundation spokesman Filip Sebek said.

At a press conference Thursday, the 74-year-old Tibetan leader urged support for freedom and democracy activists in China. “We should provide them with encouragement,” he said.

He said that Kadeer, whom China accused of stirring up bloody riots in Uighur-populated Xinjiang province in July, was much more moderate than other Uighur activists.

“She totally agrees (with) our way, including non-violence,” he said. “My understanding is that she also prefers meaningful autonomy, not separation.”

China has claimed that the Dalai Lama, living in exile in India since 1959, seeks independence for Tibet, an assertion he has repeatedly rejected. “It is in our own interest to remain in a big family,” he said.