BEIJING (Reuters) - China voiced “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” on Saturday after a meeting between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Although Brown met the Dalai Lama in London on Friday, Tibetan activists lamented that their talks were held at the Lambeth Palace residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury rather than in the prime minister’s office.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang condemned both the meeting and an invitation to the Dalai Lama to testify before a British parliamentary hearing on China’s human rights, saying London had ignored Beijing’s “severe concerns”.
“This is interference in China’s internal affairs and also seriously hurts the feelings of the Chinese people,” Qin said in a statement published on the Foreign Ministry website (www.fmprc.gov.cn).
The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, says he wants autonomy, not independence, for his Himalayan homeland. But China is unconvinced and considers him a separatist.
China has accused followers of the Dalai Lama, the most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism, of instigating rioting in Tibet and nearby areas in March — the worst since 1989. The Dalai Lama denies the charge.
China bristles at any meeting between the Dalai Lama and Western leaders that appear to lend him political legitimacy.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin urged Britain to “match its promises with concrete action and do more things that are conducive to the long-term development of bilateral relations”.
During his trip to Britain, the Dalai Lama said he was willing to go to the Olympics in Beijing in August if talks between his envoys and China yield results.
The Dalai Lama also praised the Chinese government for its handling of the aftermath of the May 12 earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan. More than 60,000 have been killed in China’s deadliest tremor in over three decades.
Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; editing by John Chalmers