China has cancelled a third consecutive Germany-China meeting following a summit between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama in September, the German foreign ministry said Saturday.
Beijing is retaliating for a meeting between the Dalai Lama and Chancellor Merkel
According to the weekly German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Chinese authorities specifically cancelled the annual get-together due to Merkel meeting the exiled Tibetan leader on September 23.
A spokeswoman for the ministry declined to comment on the magazine report or on the reasons behind the cancellation, which came in the past few days, and concerns an event scheduled for December in Beijing to discuss human rights.
"The German-Chinese human rights dialogue has been cancelled this year," the spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that the two-day meetings have taken place once a year for the last decade.
Germany's human rights commissioner has generally led the delegation and one of the German objectives in the meeting was to have been to push China to respect human rights and civil liberties. In the past, officials have used the high-ranking meeting to raise specific cases of arrests and ill treatment in China.
The historic Merkel-Dalai Lama meeting three weeks ago has provoked a diplomatic chill between the two nations. China is a key market for German exporters.
Merkel also faced criticism from within Germany for meeting the Dalai Lama
Merkel "crossed a red line," a Chinese official was quoted as telling Der Spiegel. Merkel was the first German chancellor to meet the Tibetan Buddhist leader when the two held what her spokesman called "private, informal talks" in Berlin on Sunday, Sept. 23.
Beijing already pulled out of a Germany-China human rights symposium scheduled last month in Munich, citing "technical reasons." Berlin had hoped to rearrange this conference but no suitable date has yet been found, according to the spokesman.
A meeting between the Chinese foreign minister Jian Yu and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York was also cancelled at the last minute.
Der Spiegel quoted diplomats in Beijing as saying that Germany has attempted to calm down the row but that the Chinese government was "particularly outraged that Merkel did not mention her planned meeting (with the Dalai Lama) during her visit to China in August."
Gains made during Merkel's August trip to China have been set back
The same sources were quoted as saying the Dalai Lama meeting will have "lasting consequences."
China, which claims to have liberated Tibet from feudal oppression with its occupation of the country in 1959, declared it an autonomous region in 1965. China has branded the Dalai Lama as a "separatist" and has countered charges that it represses religious freedom there by saying its large investments are modernizing the underdeveloped region.