Beijing protests British premier's plan to meet Dalai Lama

( dpa )- Beijing on Thursday protested British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's plans to meet the Dalai Lama in May as it faces criticism for its handling of protests in the Himalayan region.

"China is seriously concerned" and urged Brown not to offer support to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

Qin repeated Beijing's assertions that the Dalai Lama had organized and incited riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa that began Friday against Chinese rule.

"As we have repeatedly pointed out, Dalai is a political refugee engaged in activities of splitting China under the camouflage of religion," Qin charged.

The Dalai Lama rejected those accusations Tuesday, saying from India that he and the Tibetan government-in-exile remained committed to non-violence and that he would step aside as the Tibetan leader if Tibetans chose a path of violence.

He also called for an independent inquiry into the violence between Chinese forces and Tibetan pro-independence demonstrators, which was touched off by the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule on March 10.

The central government has confirmed 13 deaths during rioting Friday in Lhasa, and the Tibetan government in exile said it had confirmed the death of at least 80 people there. Exile groups have also reported deaths in violence in other parts of Tibet as well as outside the region.

Brown, speaking in Parliament Wednesday, said he would meet with the Dalai Lama when the Nobel Peace Prize winner visits London.

Brown added that he had a telephone conversation with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who told him he was ready to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama if the spiritual leader says he does not support the independence of Tibet and renounces violence.

The Dalai Lama has publicly renounced independence in favour of maximum autonomy and religious freedom for Tibet within China, but Beijing continues to accuse him of seeking independence and blames him for the lack of dialogue.

Claims by supporters of the Dalai Lama that they wanted peaceful dialogue were "nothing but lies," Wen said at a press conference Tuesday.

Tibet activists greeted Brown's decision to meet with the Dalai Lama.

China has criticized other world leaders who have met with the 72-year-old, including US President George W Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year.

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