China pressures Botswana over Dalai Lama visit
Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP) - China piled pressure on Botswana on Saturday over a scheduled visit to the southern African country by the Dalai Lama, who it considers a dissident separatist threat.
Botswana's President Ian Khama announced on Wednesday he would meet the Tibetan spiritual leader during his visit to the country next month, prompting a stern response from Beijing.
"China's stance is clear...," said a statement from Beijing-based foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang issued by the embassy.
"The 14th Dalai is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion with the attempt to split Tibet from China."
Beijing opposed any visit by the Dalai Lama and any kind of contact with any official, the statement added.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who lives in exile in India, is due to speak at the three-day "Mind and Life Dialogue" conference in Botswana's capital Gaborone on August 19.
The Dalai Lama says he is seeking more autonomy for Tibet rather than outright independence.
But China is a key investor across Africa and the continent's largest trade partner and in Botswana it has helped build coal-fired power plants, road networks, bridges and schools.
Many on the continent see Beijing as a counterbalance to Western influence, but the relationship has also raised accusations of colonial behaviour.
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