Hurd could incur anger of Peking

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The Independent Online
DOUGLAS HURD, the Foreign Secretary, met the Dalai Lama yesterday for talks which are sure to anger the Chinese government just before the resumption of Sino-British talks on Hong Kong.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: 'The Chinese have known about this meeting for some time. They also know our determination to keep pressing human rights issues.'

Although the Dalai Lama said afterwards that he saw the issues of Hong Kong and Tibet as being related, the spokeswoman said that this was not the British view.

In what the Foreign Office emphasised was a private meeting with the Dalai Lama in his spiritual capacity, Mr Hurd promised to raise the question of Tibetan autonomy in regular contacts with Peking.

He called on the Chinese to hold a dialogue with the Tibetan leader without preconditions. China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a renegade, insists that he drop demands for complete independence in Tibet before it will agree to talks. The Dalai Lama has been retreating for some time from seeking total independence, emphasising instead the threat to the Tibetan way of life from the arrival of millions of Chinese, which he calls 'cultural genocide'.

Yesterday he said that he was willing to talk to Peking on the basis of the 'one country, two systems' principle drawn up by Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader, for the reincorporation of Hong Kong and Taiwan. This is believed to be the first time the Dalai Lama has made such an offer unequivocally.

However, the Tibetan leader also said he supported a boycott of Chinese goods until Peking matched its economic reforms with political development.

But the timing of his comments will upset China, which has just held difficult talks in Peking with Winston Lord, the American Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia.