China 'furious' at U.S. over Dalai Lama award

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Chinese Communist Party's 17th National Congress gave cause for party officials to condemn a planned awards ceremony for the Dalai Lama, who is to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday. President Bush receives him at the White House today. "We are furious," Tibet's Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, told reporters during the congress. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world."

In 1950, the People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet and continues to occupy the territory. In January 2007 the Dalai Lama, in an interview on a private television channel, said "What we demand from the Chinese authority is more autonomy for Tibetans to protect their culture." He added that he had told the Tibetan people not to think in terms of history and to accept Tibet as a part of China.

"The presence of the U.S. president at this congressional ceremony for the Dalai Lama greatly offends China," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, said Bush should not attend. "We solemnly demand that the US cancel the extremely wrong arrangements," Mr Yang told reporters in Beijing.

Bush told Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, that he planned to attend the ceremony when they met in Australia in August. He made an overture to Jintao to assuage any perceived snub by saying he would attend the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008.

"We understand the concerns of the Chinese," White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said. "This is a meeting with a spiritual leader. It is not a meeting with a head of state."

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