BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Wednesday urged Europe not to appease China, saying that frank dealings and treating Beijing “as a friend” would best serve human rights.
The Dalai Lama is on a trip to Europe this week that is due to include a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy — an encounter that prompted China to call off Monday’s long-planned summit with the European Union in Lyon, France.
However, the Nobel peace laureate urged the 27-nation bloc, which sees China as a key potential player in global efforts to address the world economic slowdown, not to be alarmed.
“There is a Tibetan saying: some wounds in the mouth recover by themselves,” the 73-year-old Buddhist monk told Reuters in an interview.
“The Chinese had initially a tough reaction, but then it can go smoothly. So as regards my visit ... — at the beginning there was some kind of threat, then eventually not much sort of follow-up.”
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in the mountainous region, occupied by Chinese troops from 1950. China calls him a “splittist” for advocating self-determination for his homeland.
Earlier this month China warned Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, that the EU risked losing “hard-won” gains in ties with Beijing if he met the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama acknowledged that relations with China, the world’s most populous nation, were important, but said a firm approach was in the country’s own interest.
“There is a Tibetan saying that a more genuine friendship should be more frank. That’s important.”
“During Chamberlain, just before the Second World War, too much appeasement failed,” he said, referring to 1930s British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attempts to reach an accommodation with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Analysts doubted the Lyon summit would yield many results, with the EU-China relationship weighed down by trade tensions.
In a move set to complicate ties further, an EU trade committee voted on Wednesday to adopt import duties of up to 87 percent on screws and bolts from China, EU diplomats said.
The Dalai Lama repeated charges that China was guilty of “cultural genocide” in Tibet and called on Europe and others to highlight the need for respect of human rights and religious freedom in contacts with Beijing.
“In order for China to become a good member of the world, they should respect these things. So sometimes totalitarian people do not notice one’s own faults so (as a) friend it’s very important to make clear these are wrong things.”
He said that his movement’s “middle-way approach” was fully in line with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s aim for “a harmonious society and stability and unity.”
“I always believe our approach, the middle-way approach, is actually helping to bring stability, unity and prosperity and ultimately bring a harmonious society. So anyone, including the EU, helping that is indirectly helping the Chinese government.”
The Tibetan leader frequently emphasized his desire for reconciliation with China in the course of a 30-minute interview, although while discussing where he should sit, objected to a Chinese screen in his hotel suite as a backdrop.
“Chinese,” he joked. “We have some problems.”