Germany says China cancels human rights meeting

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BERLIN, Oct 13 (Reuters) China has cancelled an annual German-China human rights dialogue meeting scheduled for December, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry said today, declining to comment on the reasons.

She would also not comment on a report in Der Spiegel news magazine that said China scrapped the meeting in retaliation for Chancellor Angela Merkel's September meeting with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

''The German-Chinese human rights dialogue has been cancelled this year,'' the spokeswoman said. She said the two-day meetings have taken place once a year for the last decade. Germany's human rights commissioner has traditionally led the German delegation.

Der Spiegel said in an advance text of an article to appear on Monday the Chinese government cancelled the talks on Thursday due to Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama three weeks ago. It said China was surprised and disappointed by Merkel's decision.

It quoted Chinese government officials as saying Merkel's move would have ''a lasting impact'' on China-German relations.

Merkel ''crossed a red line'', a Chinese official was quoted as telling Der Spiegel. Merkel was the first German chancellor to meet the Dalai Lama.

Last month, China demanded Berlin take action to repair the damage.

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, September 23, for what her spokesman said were ''private, informal talks''.

China had said 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''.

China brands the Dalai Lama a ''separatist''. 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 also cancelled separate talks with German officials set for Munich last month for ''technical reasons''.

REUTERS SYU RAI2307

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