Inside China: China and its exiles

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As its influence continues to grow on the world stage, China has one major demand that the rest of the world is finding more and more difficult to accept: stay away from those people Beijing dislikes and views as undesirable.

And that would include the exiled 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, exiled Uighur Muslim activists from China’s Xinjiang region, exiled dissidents and all government officials, elected or otherwise, of Taiwan.

China is pressing this demand with sheer determination and is willing to risk some of its most valued bilateral relationships.

Last week, the Dalai Lama was in London to accept the prestigious Templeton Award for his tireless efforts to promote religious understanding. While there, he revealed that the Chinese might have sent assassins to kill him with poison.

Before the ceremony, Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner Nick Clegg met the Tibetan spiritual leader on May 14, not at 10 Downing Street, but at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The Chinese government immediately protested loudly to the British government. Within hours, China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao summoned the Britain’s ambassador to Beijing, Sebastian Wood, for a stern talk.

“The British side has done harm to China’s core interest,” Mr. Song said to Mr. Wood. “You have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. We are now expressing our severe unhappiness and are resolutely opposed to this [meeting with the Dalai Lama].”

Mr. Song’s dressing-down continued, “The Dalai [Lama] is the overall representative of Tibetan independent forces. He is an exiled politician disguised in a religious cloak, devoted to activities aimed at splitting China.”

As Mr. Wood carefully listened, Mr. Song concluded by saying, as reported by the official website of Chinese Foreign Ministry, “We demand the British side seriously treat our position and concerns, fully realize the severe consequences of [this meeting], take real actions to correct its misdeed.”

Half a world away in Japan, a group of 120 exiled Uighur activists called the World Uighur Congress began a four-day meeting in Tokyo on Monday.

China has expressed outrage against the Japanese government for issuing visas to the Uighurs, especially the female leader of the group, Rebiya Kadeer.

“Anti-China separatists from the World Uighur Congress have colluded with Japan’s right-wing forces and exposed their political determination to separate their homeland and undermine China-Japan relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a press conference on Monday.

In further protest, on Tuesday Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting with a Japanese business lobby group. No explanation was provided for the cancellation.

China calls the group “terrorists” ineligible for visas by any government.

The Japanese government states that as long as there are no international arrest warrants on these activists, they cannot be turned down for visas.

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