China slams US over top award to Dalai Lama

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BEIJING, Oct 18 (Reuters) China slammed the United States today for awarding the Dalai Lama one of its highest honours and summoned the US ambassador in Beijing to complain, saying its actions had ''gravely undermined'' relations.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing his predominantly Buddhist homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule, received the US Congressional Gold Medal from President George W Bush yesterday.

China, which considers the Dalai Lama a separatist, had already denounced the award as a ''farce'' that would hurt relations between Beijing and Washington.

''The move of the United States is a blatant interference in China's internal affairs, hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and has gravely undermined relations between China and the United States,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference.

''We urge the United States to take concrete steps to remove the terrible impact of its erroneous actions.'' Liu did not elaborate on how the United States might repair the damage, saying only that Washington was ''very aware of what kind of steps it can take''.

Many in Tibet consider the Dalai Lama their spiritual leader but any allegiance to him in the tightly controlled region risks harsh repression.

Liu said that before the Communists took control of Tibet, the Dalai Lama was responsible for a ''dark and cruel'' system of serfdom.

After he fled, ''he never ceased conniving and manipulating Tibetans abroad with actions aimed at splitting China''.

Underscoring the sensitivity of the Tibet issue within China, Liu's earlier comments on the Dalai Lama's award were removed from transcripts on the Foreign Ministry's Web site.

The Dalai Lama told a packed audience in the US Capitol he had ''no hidden agenda'' in seeking greater autonomy but not independence for his Himalayan homeland.

He said Beijing's depiction of his motives was ''unfounded and untrue'' and asked US supporters to convince China he was sincere.

In Washington, Bush called on China to open talks with the Dalai Lama, but Liu poured cold water on such a prospect.

''As we can see from the activities of the Dalai Lama, I do not find any sincerity in him,'' he said.

China and envoys of the Dalai Lama have held several rounds of dialogue, but they have yet to bridge any distance on the issue of how Tibet should be governed or whether the Dalai Lama will eventually be allowed to return.

The United States is the latest country after Germany and Australia to incur the wrath of Beijing over visits this year by the Dalai Lama.

REUTERS SKB PM1513

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