China says to retaliate after Slovak president meets Dalai Lama

October 17, 2016 5:19 AM EDT

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gestures as he gives a public religious lecture to the faithful in Zurich, Switzerland, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann


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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday it would retaliate after the president of Slovakia, Andrej Kiska, met visiting exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a man accused by Beijing of promoting independence for the Himalayan region.

China regards the 80-year-old, Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk as a separatist, though he says he merely seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet, which Communist Chinese troops "peacefully liberated" in 1950.

The Dalai Lama, who is on a trip to Europe, met President Kiska on Sunday over lunch in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, according to the Dalai Lama's official website. The site showed a picture of the two men chatting.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Kiska had ignored China's "strong opposition" to the meeting, which was contrary to the "one China" policy the Slovak government has promised to uphold.

"China is resolutely opposed to this and will make a corresponding response," Hua told a daily news briefing in Beijing, without giving details.

A posting on the Slovak president's Facebook page on Oct. 16 carried pictures of the meeting with the Dalai Lama, and a note from President Kiska describing it as "a privilege".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua said the Dalai Lama has long tried to separate Tibet from China and the government opposes any foreign official having any form of contact with him. The meeting has "broken the political basis of China-Slovak relations", Hua said.

"We demand the Slovak side clearly recognize the anti-Chinese separatist nature of the Dalai Lama clique and earnestly respect China's core interests and major concerns."

Slovakia should take steps to eliminate the negative impact of this meeting, she added.

China also expressed anger last month and threatened countermeasures after the Dalai Lama spoke at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg and met its president, Martin Schulz.

Few foreign leaders are willing to meet the Dalai Lama these days, fearful of provoking a strong reaction from China, the world's second-largest economy.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against the Chinese.

Rights groups and exiles accuse China of trampling on the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people, charges strongly denied by Beijing, which says its rule has brought prosperity to a once backward region.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)



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