China denounces Parisian honor to Dalai Lama

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Tuesday expressed “strong discontent” that Paris had honored the Dalai Lama, warning the act would harm Sino-French relations.

Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe on Sunday made the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen of the French capital.

“We expressed our strong discontent and firm opposition,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular media briefing.

“It will inevitably harm the cooperations between Paris and Chinese cities and seriously disturb the relation between China and French,” he added.

Paris and Beijing have been twin cities since 1997.

The Chinese government calls the Dalai Lama a reactionary who seeks to split off nearly a quarter of the land mass of the People’s Republic of China. It has been using its diplomatic clout to try to block the pro-Tibetan message.

The exiled spiritual leader, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, denies the charge and says he seeks only greater rights, including religious freedom, and real autonomy for Tibetans.

During the Olympic torch relay in Paris last year, pro-Tibet activists tried to wrest the Olympic torch from athletes, including a wheelchair-bound woman. That image stocked a Chinese drive to boycott French businesses, notably supermarket chain Carrefour.

After a year of tension between the two countries, the mood improved after French President Nicholas Sarkozy met his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao at a summit in London in April.

China had, however, warned Paris against giving Sunday’s award to the exiled Tibetan leader.

“We demand that Paris stop all behaviors that interfere in China’s domestic affairs to avoid going further in the wrong direction,” Qin said.

Reporting by Yu Le and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lucy Hornby and Sanjeev Miglani