China says new Dalai Lama office in Brussels is illegal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - China on Wednesday condemned the opening in Brussels of a representative office of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, saying it was aimed at splitting the Himalayan region from Beijing's rule.

"As a mere product of the intensified activities of the Dalai clique the 'Office' has usurped the name of Tibet and is absolutely illegal by any definition," the Chinese embassy in the Belgian capital said in a statement.

The embassy said it believed the office, which opened on Tuesday, had not been formally recognised by either the European Union or by Belgium.

"It is thus merely a unilateral act by the Dalai clique," the statement said.

The opening of the office -- which according to representatives from the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile is to promote Tibetan culture, identity and religion -- was attended by a dozen members of the European Parliament and EU officials together with members of the Tibetan community in Belgium.

The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel peace prize, fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

The government-in-exile, which has its headquarters in Dharamsala, India, defended the new Brussels office.

"I have seen the statement from the Chinese Embassy and I was surprised that they are so furious," said Tsewang Tethong, "minister of international relations" for the Dalai Lama.

"We are the free spokespersons outside Tibet. Tibetans in Tibet cannot say a word that would displease the Chinese, but we are here not to be anti-Chinese, but to represent the real situation in Tibet," he told Reuters.

Earlier on Wednesday, the United States presented a resolution accusing China of repressing its Tibetan minority during the annual session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

The EU supported the resolution, though it is expected to be rejected due to strong support for China among Asian and other developing countries.