San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Solís Ruffles Chinese Feathers With Remark

BEIJING, China – The Chinese government said last week that a Costa Rican presidential candidate’s pledge to name a Chinese-financed stadium in San José for the Dalai Lama “is not in line with the common desires of the two countries.”

In a statement sent to newswire EFE, China’s Foreign Ministry said the stadium, being built with $83 million in Chinese investment, “represents the Chinese people’s friendship with Costa Ricans” and is a project that has been “well received by the people of Costa Rica.”

The ministry was responding to statements by Ottón Solís, leader of the center-left Citizen Action Party, to the effect that he would name the stadium after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to show Costa Rica’s lack of dependence on “economic aid.”

Solís is trailing in the polls in the lead up to the Feb. 7 presidential election. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in Dharamshala, India, since a failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese government in 1959. He acknowledges that Tibet is part of China, but Beijing still considers him a revolutionary leader who works to spread notions regarding Tibetan independence.

The 35,000-capacity stadium – the most modern in Central America, officials say – will have offices for 32 sports federations, giant video screens, a sports museum, a track-and-field course and rooms for table tennis, fencing and chess.

Costa Rican authorities plan to inaugurate the stadium in February or March 2011 with sporting activities, a concert by a world-renowned artist and a soccer game featuring the Costa Rican national team, possibly against its Chinese counterpart.

The stadium is one of the flagship projects stemming from the resumption of diplomatic relations between Costa Rica and China on June 1, 2007, which required the severing of ties between the Central American country and Taiwan, regarded by Beijing as a renegade province.


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