German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul has defended her meeting with the Dalai Lama, planned for Monday, despite official protests from China.
China has said the Dalai Lama is "not a normal monk"
Wieczorek-Zeul is set to receive Tibet's exiled spiritual leader in a Berlin hotel on Monday, rather than at her ministry. She is the highest German official to meet with the Dalai Lama during his five-day German tour.
"I don't understand the excitement about the meeting with the Dalai Lama. I regularly talk with religious leaders. Why not with the Dalai Lama?" Wieczorek-Zeul told Spiegel Online.
"It is the development ministry's job to promote dialogue between religions and to strengthen civil society around the world," she added.
In spite of the more neutral location, China has formally protested Wieczorek-Zeul's planned meeting, according to a spokesman at the German foreign ministry.
"We object to a member of the German government receiving the Dalai Lama and to Germany allowing him to carry out this visit," Junhui Zhang from the Chinese embassy in Berlin told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
He also said in an interview with television broadcaster ARD that giving the Dalai Lama an official reception violates Germany's "one-China policy," which a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel denied.
Dalai Lama to speak at Brandenburg Gate
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to make an address at the Brandenburg Gate
Merkel met with the Dalai Lama at the chancellery during his last visit to Germany in September, a move that led to a chill in relations with China. She is currently attending a summit in Latin America.
Her deputy, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also declined to meet with the Tibetan leader, as did President Horst Koehler.
Speaking at a convention center in Bochum on Friday, the Dalai Lama reiterated that he is "not looking for independence" for Tibet, rather greater autonomy within China.
He also said he hoped for concrete results from the talks between his representatives and the Chinese government, which are being held in the aftermath of the Tibet freedom demonstrations in March.
While in Berlin on Monday, the Dalai Lama is also scheduled to address supporters for 15 minutes at the Brandenburg Gate, the capital city's landmark.