Austria Threatened With Panda Loss for Meeting Dalai Lama

By Carol Wickenkamp, Epoch Times
June 11, 2013 Updated: June 11, 2013

The Chinese regime is playing the panda card in an attempt to make sure that Austria won’t repeat last year’s visit by the Dalai Lama.

Still smarting with resentment over the visit, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to send its ambassador in Vienna to pressure Austrian officials for assurances that they will never again invite the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, to Austria.

Using a pair of winsome pandas in Schönbrunn Zoo, the regime wants Austria to back down over human rights and Tibet, an independent territory that was invaded by the People’s Liberation Army in 1950 and now belongs to the People’s Republic of China. Similar diplomatic pressure has been applied to Britain, France, and Germany.

The ten year lease on the pandas expired in March, but last year zoo officials announced that they had signed an interim memorandum with the China Wildlife Conservation Association and they expected the lease would be renewed, according to the Austrian Times.

The renewal agreement was derailed by the Dalai Lama’s visit, however.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann called his meeting with the Dalai Lama “a clear political signal for human rights, non-violence and dialogue against oppression,” according to Phayul, a pro-Tibetan website. He dismissed Beijing’s warnings about the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit to Austria.

China’s communists looked at things a little differently. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei characterized the visit as a “severe interference with China’s internal affairs” which “hurt the feelings of Chinese people” Phayul said.

Pushing Austrian officials to break relations with the Tibetan leader, the Chinese stalled on signing a new panda lease. “Chinese officials only want to sign the contract when there is return to a ‘good bilateral atmosphere,’ as formulated by a diplomat,” said Phayul, quoting the report.

Pressuring nations to shun the Dalai Lama, usually through economic retribution, is standard Chinese Communist Party policy.

A Chinese nationalist blogger, writing on a section of the website of People’s Daily, a state mouthpiece, gloated about the PRC’s maneuvering against European countries. “In September of 2007, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama. As a result, the PRC ‘retaliated’ against Germany… Later Merkel learned her lesson,” the blogger wrote. “After winning her second election, she did not dare to meet with the Dalai Lama again. Since then, she has managed to maintain a fairly good relationship with China.”

Chinascope, a website that carries translations of government propaganda and policy, said the unguarded blog post shows the attitude of the regime more openly than mainstream publications.

The blogger noted that former French Prime Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, also received the Dalai Lama in 2008. “China’s revenge against France was much more violent… In the end, France was forced to give in and issued a joint declaration with China.”

As for British Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in May 2012, the blogger writes: “This time it was Britain’s turn to suffer… According to the British media, Britain will lose billions of pounds of China’s investment in Britain because of it.”