.- A planned Vatican meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama would be an "offense" to the Chinese people, a government spokesman said Thursday in Beijing.
The Pope will reportedly meet with the head of Tibetan Buddhism on December 13 according to reports by ANSA, though officials at the Holy See have not yet officially confirmed the meeting.
China hopes that the meeting will not take place because it would be offensive to the Chinese nation, government spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
Beijing sees the Dalai Lama as a "political plotter" who plans to split the country. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959, when he fled Tibet following a revolt against Chinese rule. Approximately six million Tibetans now live under Chinese authority.
The 71 year-old Dalai Lama has abandoned demands for full Tibetan independence and now seeks a "one country, two systems" formula which would preserve Tibetan culture and spirituality.
A papal meeting with the Buddhist leader would worsen tensions between China and the Holy See. The Catholic community in China, numbering between 12 and 14 million, is split between an underground church and a government-recognized Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. The Chinese government claims authority to appoint Catholic bishops without the approval of the Vatican.
Before reports of the planned meeting Chinese-Vatican tensions were considered to be improving.
The Dalai Lama already met with Pope Benedict XVI in a low-profile visit to the papal summer residence last year, but the meeting was considered less formal because it did not take place in the Vatican.