Tibet plunges Bonn into row with China

Germany fell off its tightrope yesterday, after repeated attempts to do lucrative business in China, on the one hand, while proclaiming itself to be the conscience of the world, on the other.

Klaus Kinkel, the Foreign Minister, suffered a series of humiliations during the course of the day. In the morning, China closed down the Peking office of a political foundation run by his own party, the Free Democrats. In the afternoon he was attacked by German MPs for his wimpish response; one Green MP accused the Foreign Minister of "kow-towing to a dictatorial regime".

By the evening Mr Kinkel was piggy in the middle, in a row that is threatening to unravel German attempts to project an independent foreign policy in the economically dynamic region.

Chinese ire was provoked by the Dalai Lama's plan to hold the second World Congress of Tibetan Exiles in Bonn this weekend. Although the German government distanced itself from the event, the Congress is being organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, an influential think-tank headed by the former Economics Minister and respected Free Democrat, Count Otto Lambsdorff.

In closing down the Foundation's office, Peking accused it of supporting the "Dalai Lama clique".

Indirectly, the charge could also be levelled at the German government, which has been strenuously cultivating links with the Chinese government in the hope of gaining fat contracts for its industry. Earlier this year, Chancellor Helmut Kohl led a 100-strong trade delegation to China, during which he appeared to absolve the regime of the crimes of Tiananmen Square by meeting generals of the Chinese People's Army. Arms sales were high on the delegation's agenda.

The twin-track approach of making money in the Far East while paying lip service to human rights in the region finally foundered yesterday. Even before Peking's intervention yesterday, opposition MPs had planned a motion calling for state support for the Congress through the Foundation, which receives some of its money from one of the parties in the governing coalition. The motion was defeated, but another, criticising Chinese human rights violations, is on the way.

Fairly innocuous in its wording, the motion due to be tabled next week is explosive in substance. The text was drafted not only by opposition politicians, but also MPs from the coalition parties, and somehow got the approval of a Christian Democrat whip. There were dark hints circulating in Bonn yesterday that if that motion were approved, Mr Kinkel would have no choice but to resign.

The Foreign Minister tried to escape the gathering storm by instructing his office late in the day to call in the Chinese ambassador for a dressing- down.

The German government regarded the closure of the Foundation office as an "inappropriate reaction", Mr Kinkel explained in a statement.

"The federal government supports the demand of Tibetans for cultural and religious autonomy," the statement went on. "Tibetans have a verifiable traditional historical right for autonomy."

The pundits wondered whether this heralded a change of government policy. Alas, we are still in lip-service territory. The statement explains that Germany recognises Tibet is part of China, and could not recognise the Dalai Lama as anything but a figurehead.

Rather than dousing the flames, Mr Kinkel's belated response is likely to pour more oil on the fire. Tensions between China and Germany are bound to rise throughout the duration of the Congress, although the Dalai Lama can be excused for wondering what all the fuss is about.

So far, he has made no complaint about German hospitality. He is being looked after by Petra Roth, the Mayor of Frankfurt, and a prominent politician in Mr Kohl's Christian Democratic party. But don't tell Mr Kohl - he doesn't want to know.

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Sport
Moeen Ali wearing the 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands on his left arm
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Application Engineer - Flow Metering

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Application ...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Project Manager,Conduct Risk,London,£5-600pd

£500 - £600 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on