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Cablegate: Germany Walks Tightrope Between China and The

VZCZCXRO3715
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHRL #0427/01 0951427
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041427Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0838
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0949
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0527

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BERLIN 000427

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM CH GM
SUBJECT: GERMANY WALKS TIGHTROPE BETWEEN CHINA AND THE
DALAI LAMA

REF: BERLIN 365

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) German Chancellor Merkel and the interior and
foreign ministries have ruled out a boycott of the Olympics,
but government reactions, along with that of the public,
continue to be critical of China. Government statements and
an April 3 special session of the German parliament on
China's handling of demonstrations in Tibet reveal a
predictably measured government response with some important
nuances. On the one hand, the government is critical of the
Chinese for their lack of transparency and heavy-handedness
with ethnic minorities, but on the other hand, it
rationalizes the Chinese government's response in light of
domestic politics and the extreme actions of some Tibetan
protestors. A planned May visit to Germany by the Dalai Lama
and the question of his possible reception by EU foreign
ministers will continue to complicate Germany's relations
with China. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- --------
NO OLYMPIC BOYCOTT, BUT NO SENIOR OFFICIALS ATTENDING
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (U) German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to rule out
a boycott of the Olympic Games in response to the Chinese
government's handling of recent developments in Tibet
(reftel) as do the foreign and interior ministers. Merkel
maintains that the conflict should be resolved politically
and that the Beijing Olympics present an opportunity to raise
awareness about Chinese domestic development and its handling
of ethnic minorities. On March 25, a Chancellery
spokesperson repeated the necessity of direct talks between
Beijing and the Dalai Lama and called on each party to
approach the other side. According to an Emnid poll, more
than fifty percent of Germans support a boycott of the
Olympics and twenty percent are strictly against any German
participation.

3. (U) As previously decided before the recent unrest in
Tibet, no high-ranking German government official will attend
the opening ceremony of the Olympics. (Note: Traditionally,
the German Federal President attends the opening ceremony.
President Koehler, whose daughter is blind, had already opted
instead to attend the Special Olympics in September. End
Note). Chancellor Merkel does not plan to travel to China
until October 2008, to attend the EU-China summit.
Interior/Sports Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will visit China
ten days after the Olympics have begun. A government
spokesperson indicated on March 31 that the German ambassador
to China, Michael Schaefer, may represent Germany at the
games. No German parliamentarian has yet advocated a boycott
of the games, although several have argued to leave the
option open should the situation in Tibet escalate (reftel).
The March 24 announcement by the German Olympic Committee,
stating outright there would be no boycott, was criticized by
some German politicians as premature, given the uncertainty
of further developments in Tibet.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
STEINMEIER STRESSES END TO VIOLENCE, MORE TRANSPARENCY
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) In a March 25 phone conversation with Chinese
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, German Foreign Minister
Steinmeier called for an end to the violence in Tibet. This
was Steinmeier's second phone conversation with his Chinese
counterpart since March 16 (reftel). According to State
Minister Gernot Erler, Steinmeier's call focused on three
objectives: getting clarification of events on the ground,
calling for an end to the 'information blockade' by the
Chinese government, and urging 'full transparency' concerning
the situation in Tibet.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE: SPECIALTIBET SESSION
--------------------------------------------- -------------

5. (SBU) The German paliament's human rights committee
convened a specal session on April 3 to discuss Tibet (Note:
Th Bundestag was not in session during this time. En Note).
State Minister Erler and Human Rights Cmmissioner Guenter
Nooke and offered messages reflecting concern on behalf of
the German governmen about the situation, but urged measured
responses from both Germany and the EU.

BERLIN 00000427 002 OF 003

6. (SBU) In his assessment of the situation in Tibet, Erler
characterized the Chinese government's reaction as "insecure"
and mired in party politics. On the one hand, Erler said the
Chinese leadership wanted to create a 'cautious opening' in
dealing with the West, but on the other he said the GoC faced
serious and threatening criticism from hard-line nationalists
within the party. Erler welcomed the Chinese government's
invitation to journalists and diplomats last week to tour
Lhasa, calling it a "cautious success", but commented that
this opportunity was undermined by how heavily the government
stage-managed the visit. When questioned about the prospect
of Foreign Minister Steinmeier supporting an invitation by EU
foreign ministers to meet with the Dalai Lama, Erler was
evasive and said he had not yet had a chance to discuss this
with Steinmeier. Erler also expressed concern that the Dalai
Lama's plan to visit Germany in May could potentially incite
more disturbances in Tibet.

7. (SBU) Nooke struck a different tone in his assessment of
developments in Tibet, expressing anger at the Chinese
government's unwillingness to address the situation in the UN
Human Rights Council. Commenting that it was a mistake to
allow China to host the Olympic games, Nooke nonetheless
opposed a boycott at this time. Nooke called on the
international community to hold China accountable to the
commitments it had made on human rights when it was given the
opportunity to host the Olympics. He added that the German
government is trying to organize a new round of talks on
human rights, but he said it looked unlikely that this would
take place before the Olympic games. (Note: The last round,
scheduled for December, was cancelled. End Note). Nooke
confirmed that he will meet with the Dalai Lama on May 18 in
Nueremberg.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
DALAI LAMA IN DEUTSCHLAND AND GERMAN OFFICIALS IN CHINA
--------------------------------------------- ----------

8. (U) The Dalai Lama's plans to visit Germany May 16-20 -
at the invitation of the German Tibet Initiative - remain in
place, and may further complicate German-Chinese relations.
According to MFA and other contacts, he will meet with the
president of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, Human
Rights Commissioner Guenter Nooke, and the
Minister-Presidents of Northrhine-Westfalia and Hesse,
Juergen Ruettgers and Roland Koch, the latter being a
long-time friend of the Dalai Lama. Chancellor Merkel will
not meet with the Tibetan leader because she will be on
official travel in Latin America at that time. Her spokesman
has said that Merkel will meet the Dalai Lama again at a
different time -- thus rejecting speculation that she would
not meet with him because of the months-long fissure in
Sino-German relations following her September 2007 meeting
with him. It looks unlikely that FM Steinmeier will meet
with him (see para 6), primarily because of his efforts in
the past several months to restore German-Sino relations.
According to the German Tibet Initiative, Steinmeier has 'not
yet decided' whether or not to meet with the Dalai Lama.
President Koehler has also apparently not yet responded to
the invitation for a meeting.

9. (U) Meanwhile, German interest in the Tibetan situation
remains extremely high, and various politicians have
committed to trips to China and/or Tibet. Following a call
by the German Tibet Initiative, over two hundred city halls
(including those of Frankfurt/Main, Bremen, and Wiesbaden)
flew the Tibetan flag on March 31 to protest China's policy
toward Tibet. Frankfurt Mayor Petra Roth said that flying
the Tibetan flag demonstrated opposition to what she
described as 60 years of China's injustice toward Tibet.
Roth will travel to China April 6-12 and intends to raise
human rights violations in Tibet when she is there.
Separately, Greens deputy caucus leader Jeurgen Trittin
traveled to China March 30-April 4. Post will report any
read-out of these trips septel. On April 3, the CDU
Secretary General Ronald Pofalla issued a statement

SIPDIS
concerning the imprisonment of Chinese human rights activist
Hu Jia, saying that allowing China to host the Olympics
should not be a 'carte blanche' on their human rights record
and demanded Hu's release.

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COMMENT
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10. (SBU) The German government continues to make efforts to
deliver a balanced message on China and its handling of human

BERLIN 00000427 003 OF 003


rights and, in particular, its handling of ethnic minorities.
In his address to parliament on April 3, State Minister
Erler characterized what had happened in Lhasa as a "pogrom"
but also tried, diplomatically, to rationalize the Chinese
government's response in the context of domestic (Chinese)
politics. There are clearly differing assessments of the
situation within the Foreign Ministry, evident in the two
areas where State Minister Erler and Human Rights
Commissioner Nooke diverged. On the justification for
rejecting a boycott, Erler said it would send the wrong
political signals, but Nooke stressed using the Olympics as
an opportunity to raise criticism against China's human
rights. As for the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Germany,
Erler characterized it as a possible incitement to further
unrest while Nooke welcomed it and reiterated his plans to
meet with him. Discussion of a possible Olympics boycott is
likely to continue, particularly among parliamentarians, in
the wake of various German officials' visits to China this
spring. As noted in reftel, this could engender divisions
between the leading coalition parties - the CDU/CSU and the
SPD - and further politicization of China policy for the sake
of domestic German politics. End comment.
TIMKEN JR

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