The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Beijing displeased about Spanish court's arrest orders for former Chinese leaders over Tibet

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BEIJING, China - China expressed its strong displeasure Wednesday over a Spanish court's arrest orders for several former Chinese leaders including retired President Jiang Zemin in an investigation into alleged genocide in Tibet, and called the accusations levelled by pro-Tibetan groups "despicable."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a regular briefing that Beijing firmly opposes the court's move. "We urge Spain to face up to China's solemn position, change the wrong decision, repair the severe damage, and refrain from sending wrong signals to the Tibetan-independence forces and hurting China-Spain relations," Hong said.

A spokeswoman for Spain's Foreign Ministry said it had no comment about China's reaction to the arrest orders because the case is a judicial matter. She spoke on condition of anonymity because of ministry regulations that prevent her from being named.

Acting on a universal justice principle, Spain's National Court on Tuesday accepted arguments from Spanish pro-Tibet rights groups that international reports indicate China's leaders may have had a role in alleged genocide in the Himalayan region and should be questioned. Such investigations in practice have been largely futile but have irked countries including China and Israel.

International human rights and pro-Tibetan groups have criticized Beijing for what they call oppressive policies in Tibetan regions, where more than 100 monks and laymen have self-immolated in protest of Beijing's rule. Beijing has argued that it has poured huge investments into the region to lift Tibetans out of poverty and accused exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of inciting dissent to split Tibet from China.

Before the Spanish court issued the arrest orders, a senior official of a Chinese legislative advisory panel dismissed legal actions against China in a foreign court as "preposterous," in comments made last month but posted to a government-run news site on Tuesday.

"This is an absurd act, and those harbouring the idea will only embarrass themselves," said Zhu Weiqun, director of the ethnicity and religion committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory panel to China's legislature, in a transcript posted on the government-run Tibet.cn Web site.

Zhu said that in the past Western countries threatened China with warships, but that now they cannot, so they try to intimidate Beijing with lawsuits.

On Wednesday, Hong levelled criticisms at pro-Tibet groups, saying they have made "false accusations through libel and defamation in a futile attempt to attack the Chinese government."

"This despicable act is doomed to fail," Hong said.

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Associated Press writer Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this story.

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