China protests, Britain defends Cameron-Dalai meeting

Beijing/London: China today took strong exception to British Prime Minister David Cameron`s meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama while London defended the "private get together", saying who the country`s leaders choose to see is a matter for them.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao summoned British ambassador Sebastian Wood to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here and made "solemn representations" on Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg`s meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in London on Monday. Song told Wood that the British leaders meeting the Dalai Lama was a "serious interference in China`s internal affairs". The Dalai Lama`s meeting with Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was held at the Cathedral, instead of 10 Downing Street, on Monday and was officially described as "private get together" by the British officials.

"British Ministers believe that who they see is a matter for them. The Dalai Lama as an important religious figure and the Prime Minister expects to meet important religious figures from time to time," a British Foreign Office spokesperson told PTI in London, rejecting China`s objections to the meeting. The spokesperson said, "If they choose to see someone, it does not necessarily indicate they support that individual`s viewpoint. Ministers place value on dialogue, discussion and gathering a wide range of viewpoints on issues of importance."

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei had earlier said, "Regardless of China`s repeated representations the UK still arranged Prime Minister Cameron and other UK leaders to meet Dalai. This is a serious interference in China`s internal affairs and an affront to the Chinese people besides undermining China-UK relations." He said the Tibetan issues are China`s internal affairs.