China says Canada-Dalai Lama meeting "disgusting"

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BEIJING, Oct 30 (Reuters) China condemned Canada's prime minister for ''disgusting conduct'' for playing host to the Dalai Lama and demanded that Ottawa stop supporting anti-Chinese activities by exiled Tibetans.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday defied China by receiving Tibet's exiled spiritual leader in his office in Parliament, with television cameras and photographers present. He presented the 1989 Nobel laureate with a maple-leaf scarf.

''It's gross interference in China's internal affairs. The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao declared.

''This disgusting conduct has seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and undermined Sino-Canadian relations,'' Liu told a regular news briefing.

''The Chinese side demands the Canadian side ... correct its mistaken conduct, immediately adopt effective measures to eliminate adverse impact (from the meeting) and stop winking at or supporting anti-Chinese activities by Tibetan forces.'' The Dalai Lama fled his predominantly Buddhist homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule.

The Dalai Lama, who was granted honorary Canadian citizenship in June, was also scheduled to meet Governor General Michaelle Jean, representative of Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth, and leaders of Canada's opposition parties.

Earlier yesterday, he met Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism, at the Department of Heritage.

In 2004, then-prime minister Paul Martin met the Dalai Lama privately at the home of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa, but this time the venues were upgraded to government buildings.

The Dalai Lama says he wants greater autonomy, not independence, for his Himalayan homeland. But China is convinced he is a separatist, underscoring the gulf between the sides.

''For decades the Dalai Lama's words and deeds have demonstrated that he is a political exile who wears a religious cloak while engaging in activities splitting the motherland and sabotaging ethnic unity,'' Liu, the spokesman, said.

US President George W. Bush and leaders of Congress gave the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal in a packed ceremony in the US Capitol on October 17.

China cancelled an annual human rights dialogue with Germany to show its displeasure with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting last month with the Dalai Lama.

REUTERS SG RN1529

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