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China ‘Blocks’ Mongolia Border after Dalai Lama Visit
International

China Blocks Mongolia Border After Dalai Lama Visit

Mongolia says China has closed a key border crossing, creating huge congestion, nearly a week after the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, visited the country.

Hundreds of truck drivers for the mining conglomerate Rio Tinto are stuck at the Gants Mod crossing in southeastern Mongolia in freezing temperatures.

Footage shows a long line of trucks on the Mongolian side of the border waiting to cross.

“Mongolia says these drivers spend hours and in some cases days waiting in the cold,” Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said on Saturday.

Rio Tinto, which operates vast copper and gold mines, has now suspended shipment to China of copper concentrate.

The Dalai Lama is cherished as a spiritual leader in predominantly Buddhist Mongolia but is considered a separatist in China for supporting a long drawn-out campaign for the independence of Tibet.

Beijing has been campaigning for a diplomatic boycott of Dalai Lama since 1959, when he escaped to India and formed a government in exile. He retired from political life in 2011.

Last month, Beijing imposed new tariffs on commodity shipments between China and Mongolia. But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, did not confirm whether or not the new border fees were connected to Dalai Lama’s visit, saying that he was unaware of the situation.

“As for the Dalai Lama’s visit to Mongolia, China has expressed its position many times,” he said at the ministry’s regular press briefing on Thursday, covered by Reuters.

The diplomatic repercussions could hit Mongolia hard, with the crisis-hit government desperate to boost economic ties with its powerful southern neighbor and use Chinese investment and kick-start key mining and infrastructure projects.

Mongolia had been negotiating a loan with China to help ease its acute financial troubles.

Its government is basically broke, but China has cancelled talks to discuss the loan that Mongolia needs so very badly. So in a sense Mongolia is paying a very heavy economic price for putting religious freedom ahead of economic necessity.

Ahead of Dalai Lama’s visit to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in October, China warned of “damage” to bilateral ties between the two countries.

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