BEIJING (AFP) — China lodged an official protest on Thursday over the honouring of the Dalai Lama in Washington, while bluntly rejecting US President George W. Bush's advice on how to handle the Tibet issue.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi summoned the US ambassador in Beijing to receive China's angry response to the unprecedented reception by Bush and US lawmakers of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
"China urges the United States to take effective measures immediately to remove the terrible impacts of its erroneous act," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, warning again that bilateral ties had been damaged.
He said China called on the United States to "cease supporting... separatist activities of the Tibet independent forces, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and to take concrete steps to protect Sino-US relations."
Liu said Yang had delivered China's "strong protest" to US ambassador Clark Randt on Thursday.
The blistering response came after Bush on Wednesday defied repeated warnings from China and awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal -- US lawmakers' highest civilian honour -- at the US Capitol building.
"They will find this good man to be a man of peace and reconciliation," Bush said of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
"Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away."
It was the first time a sitting US president had appeared in public with the Dalai Lama, whom China accuses of being a dangerous figure agitating for Tibetan independence.
Bush, who on Tuesday also met with the Dalai Lama privately at his White House residence, urged China to open talks with the revered 72-year-old Buddhist icon.
"It's in their interest to meet with the Dalai Lama," Bush said, prompting a terse response from Liu.
"As to how to handle the Dalai Lama and Tibet issues, Chinese people are very clear about what to do and do not need to be lectured by other countries," Liu said.
But while Liu repeated China's warning that this week's events in the United States had severely damaged ties between the two powers, he refused to answer reporters' questions on what other specific actions China would take.
US analysts said Internet search engines in China were being hijacked and directed to the locally-owned Baidu, speculating that this may be retaliation for the White House award.
"It seems like China is fed up with the US, so as a way to fight back, they redirected virtually all search traffic from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to Baidu," analysts at Search Engine Roundtable wrote.
China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 and officially "liberated" it the following year.
The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He insists that he wants autonomy for Tibet rather than independence, a claim that China rejects.
The United States and the United Nations do not question China's sovereignty over Tibet.
However China's atheist communist rulers have come under international criticism for decades over alleged religious and political persecution in the devoutly Buddhist region.
The Dalai Lama on Wednesday used the high-profile ceremony to again insist he only wanted autonomy for his homeland, and not independence, and called for talks with China's leaders.
But he also warned of "grave" social and environmental problems occurring in Tibet under Chinese rule.
"Every year, the Chinese population inside Tibet is increasing at an alarming rate," he said.
"And, if we are to judge by the example of the population of Lhasa (the region's capital), there is a real danger that the Tibetans will be reduced to an insignificant minority in their own homeland."
The Dalai Lama also warned that the rapid increase in Tibet's population was posing a "serious threat" to the region's environment.
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