China warned France on Thursday that upcoming talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama could affect trade ties between the two countries worth billions of dollars. Meanwhile the Dalai Lama spoke to the European Parliament.
It is not the first time Beijing expressed its disapproval of talks scheduled for Saturday in Poland between the Dalai Lama and President Sarkozy, who also holds the rotating European Union presidency. China previously called off an European Union summit that was to be held in France this week.
China opposes foreign leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama, arguing the Tibetan spiritual leader is seeking independence for his region.
And Beijing's warning of business sanctions may carry weight. Chinese boycotted some French companies earlier this year after the Olympic torch relay in Paris was disrupted by protesters angry over China's record on human rights and Tibet.
But in Brussels Thursday, the Dalai Lama reiterated his argument that he only wanted autonomy for Tibet during remarks at the European Parliament that were greeted by rousing applause. "Now the Tibetan issue. Basically to some Chinese officials our approach they consider (it) a splittist movement. It's actually not. It's totally wrong. Everyone knows we are seeking genuine autonomy within...China for our genuine interest," he said.
The Dalai Lama said his movement was trying to promote a harmonious and stable society, and that couldn't be developed under fear, an apparent reference to Chinese rule in Tibet.
During a press conference later, the Dalai Lama said China lacked moral authority because of its poor record on human rights, religious freedom and free expression.
On Thursday, China's state media again condemned the Dalai Lama's call for Tibetan autonomy.