World News

China summons German envoy over Dalai Lama visit

The Dalai Lama gestures during a news conference in Lisbon September 12, 2007. REUTERS/Hugo Correia/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) - China’s government summoned the German ambassador in Beijing on Friday to protest against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s planned meeting with the Dalai Lama, the German Foreign Ministry said.

German Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a regular news conference on Friday Merkel would meet Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader in the chancellery on Sept. 23 for a “private exchange of views”.

Beijing responded quickly. As a result of the announcement, Germany’s Ambassador to China, Michael Schaefer, was “asked to go to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing,” a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said.

Critics of China’s rule in Tibet say Beijing continues to repress Tibetan Buddhists’ religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, whom China denounces as a “separatist”. The spiritual leader says he only wants greater autonomy for the region.

“Tibet is a human rights issue that we have brought up with China,” Wilhelm said, adding that Merkel routinely met religious leaders in Germany and abroad.

Merkel made an official visit to China last month.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He remains highly popular among Tibetans.