Angela Merkel has sent out a signal in the midst of the controversy over the crackdown in Tibet and the appropriate way to deal with the communist regime in Beijing: The German chancellor has announced a future meeting with the Dalai Lama. Merkel will be in Latin America during the time of the Dalai Lama's next visit to Germany, "but I will certainly meet again with the Dalai Lama at a later point in the future," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
Merkel also defended her decision to hold a reception for the Nobel peace prize recipient in the Chancellery last September -- an event that sparked a serious diplomatic row between Berlin and Beijing. "First of all, my reception of the Dalai Lama and my dealings with China are two different things," she said. "But both are related to how we deal with whether or not human rights are being observed or disregarded, and Germany's position here is clear, and receiving the Dalai Lama also belongs to that."
According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, German Bundestag President Norbert Lammert of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) is resisting pressure from the Chinese government to cancel his planned meeting with the Dalai Lama. The chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, Ruprecht Polenz of the CDU, also wrote to the Dalai Lama requesting a meeting.
Private Meeting Planned with Dalai Lama
Polenz is still waiting for a reply from the Tibetan spiritual leader. For his part, though, Lammert has been subjected to considerable pressure over his plan to meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Employees at the Chinese Embassy in Berlin intervened and China's ambassador to Germany carried out a one-hour telephone call with Lammert. Last week, however, Lammert is said to have sent a critical letter in which he resisted embassy pressure and clearly expressed his concern about the "current situation -- not only in Tibet, but also in other parts of China."
Lammert also noted that, two days after the telephone conversation, civil rights activist Hu Jia, who suffers from a "serious liver illness," was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for "subversion." The hearings and sentencing in that trial, he noted, took about the same amount of time as his phone call with the ambassador. He said he wasn't alone in having the impression that the severity and speed with which the activist was prosecuted was intended to "suppress public criticism of the human rights situation in China in the run-up to the Olympics and to serve as a warning to other Chinese human rights activists." With the conviction, Hu Jia's allegation that China hasn't kept its promise to improve the human rights situation "is more confirmed than dispelled," wrote Lammert.
The meeting between the president of parliament and the Dalai Lama is scheduled to take place in the western German city of Bochum and in an unofficial capacity. Nevertheless, the Chinese fear that a meeting between the man who is formally one of the country's most important political representatives will be taken seriously internationally.