China chides Germany's Merkel for hosting Dalai Lama

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BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) China chided German Chancellor Angela Merkel today for hosting Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, demanding Berlin take action to repair damage done to bilateral ties.

Merkel met the Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, at the Chancellery in Berlin on Sunday for what her spokesman said were ''private, informal talks''.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China was ''strongly dissatisfied'' that Merkel ignored repeated protests by Beijing and insisted on meeting a ''political exile who has long been engaged in splitting China and sabotaging ethnic unity''.

''It is not only a gross interference in China's internal affairs but has also seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and has gravely damaged China-Germany relations,'' Jiang told a regular news conference.

''We demand the German side take earnest and effective measures to eliminate the negative impact caused by its wrong action and not to do unnecessary harm to bilateral ties again.'' China brands the Dalai Lama a ''separatist'', but he says he only wants greater autonomy for the region and remains highly popular among devoutly Buddhist Tibetans.

Critics have accused China of repressing religious freedom in Tibet, but Beijing hit back by saying that it invests huge amounts of money every year to modernise the underdeveloped region and bring prosperity.

China summoned the German ambassador in Beijing to protest and to urge Merkel to change her mind before the Berlin meeting.

China has also cancelled separate talks with German officials that were due to take place in Munich on Sunday for ''technical reasons''.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi would meet his German counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week, Jiang said, after a traditional breakfast between the two foreign ministers was reportedly cancelled.

''Foreign Minister Yang will reiterate China's solemn stance on the Dalai Lama issue (in the meeting),'' Jiang said.

REUTERS JK VC1526

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