February 10, 2009 / 9:01 AM / 11 years ago

China angry at Italian award for Dalai Lama

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama (L) greets Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno during a ceremony where he was made honorary citizen of Rome at the Campidoglio February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Tuesday expressed its anger at an Italian award for exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and warned of unspecified consequences in relations.

Beijing abruptly cancelled a China-EU summit last year, angry over French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, who 50 years fled Tibet after China quashed a Tibetan uprising, was made an honorary citizen of Rome on Monday.

“This seriously hurts the feelings of the Chinese people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing. “We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition.

“We hope Italy pays attention to China’s deep concerns and takes immediate, effective measures to remove the negative impact and maintain the healthy, stable development of bilateral ties,” she added, without saying what steps Italy should take.

Demonstrations by monks in Lhasa last March escalated into deadly riots and triggered protests against Chinese rule across the Tibetan plateau, especially in the run-up to the August Beijing Olympics.

China blamed the unrest of the Dalai Lama, whom it regularly brands a “splittist”, or separatist. The Dalai Lama denies the charge, saying he is only seeking greater autonomy for the region.

“Tibet is an inseparable part of China. The Tibet issue is a purely internal one,” Jiang said.

“He is not a simple religious figure,” she added, referring to the Dalai Lama. “He wears a religious signboard, and has for a long time been a political exile engaging in splittist political activities.”

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