Beijing, May 24: China has strongly objected to a meeting arranged between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, saying it was "an interference" into China's affairs. The Dalai Lama is on a UK visit since May 20. Opposing the arranged meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a press release, "This interferers in China's internal affairs, and hurts Chinese people's feelings as well," reported Chinese news agency Xinhua. Earlier, media reports had suggested that in a bid to avoid confrontation with China over the Tibet issue, Brown had decided not to receive the Tibetan spiritual leader at his official residence 10 Downing Street.
Instead, he would meet the Tibetan leader at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, thereby giving a message to China that he received the Dalai Lama in a spiritual rather than political capacity. The Dalai Lama's 11-day visit to Britain began on May 20 and will include political as well as spiritual events, including taking part in a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Confirming that Brown won't meet the Dalai Lama at 10 Downing Street, a British Prime Minister Office spokesman, had said: "As he said in Parliament, the Prime Minister intends to see the Dalai Lama. What is important is that they are meeting and will have a substantive conversation. It is also significant that the Chinese are engaging directly with representatives of the Dalai Lama." Replying to a question, why the meeting was in Lambeth Palace, the spokesman reportedly said: "He is a spiritual representative and it makes sense for the Prime Minister to meet with him."
This would be the first time when a British PM will not meet the Dalai Lama at his official residence, as during his earlier visits, two ex-British PMs Tony Blair and John Major saw him at Downing Street. Other heads of states have also accorded him official welcome. Angela Merkel became the first German head of state to meet him last September, while President George W Bush received him at the White House and presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Meanwhile, Brown's decision has been severely criticised in British political circles. Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell attacked Brown's decision, saying he was adopting the Lisbon Treaty approach to the meeting. There is no reason why he should not see the Dalai Lama at No 10, and the suspicion must be that he is responding to the Chinese Government, he said.