Support for Tibet at Saeima can jeopardize China ties

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China’s Ambassador to Latvia Yang Guoqiang has expressed his country’s official dissatisfaction with the meeting of Saeima’s parliamentary group for relations with Tibet with Kalon Dicki Chhoyang of the Central Tibetan Adminstration’s (CTA) Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) last week, reported national information agency LETA Wednesday.

The Ambassador’s objections were heard already before the meeting took place by Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš (Unity), who advised the parliamentary support group ‘in Latvia’s interests’ against using official state premises for the potentially disruptive diplomacy. Regardless of Kalniņš’ advice, the meeting went ahead on Saeima premises after all.

Kalniņš explained to LETA Wednesday that he respects those who wish to defend Tibet, but that as a politician he must consider defending the interests of Latvia and its people as his top priority.

He emphasized that China enjoys the status of a strategic partner of the European Union now during Latvia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. This means that those who wish to support human rights in Tibet can do so in various ways, but that shouldn’t be done by state officials if “we don’t wish to ruin relations with China.”

Kalniņš stressed the significance of relations with the People’s Republic of China especially while Russia’s embargo on EU food products has shut down trade there while trade with China has doubled and Latvia’s panicked dairy producers are hoping for salvation in a possible turn of access to its market.

Kalniņš publically compared the meeting with Tibet’s exile government representative to being like having had “talks with the Donetsk People’s Republic representatives,” later clarifying that he meant to characterize how China might perceive the case. He apologized for having used the inappropriate comparison, however repeated his claim that the meeting with the Tibetan Kalon on Saeima premises was a diplomatic provocation that could seriously ruin relations with China.

On his part, Jānis Mārtiņš Skuja, NGO Latvia for Tibet leader and parliamentary deputy assistant to Mārtiņš Šics (Alliance of Regions), who heads the Saeima Support Group for Tibet, blasted the Foreign Affairs Committee chair for his remarks against the meeting and called for an apology from Kalniņš for doing the “black work” of the Chinese Embassy. Skuja explained that Dicki Chhoyang was in Latvia to talk of the Middle Way Approach of Tibetan autonomy within the framework of China’s constitution, as opposed to any separatist freedom movement, such as was implied by Kalniņš comparison to Donetsk.

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