China using strong-arm tactics over Dalai Lama visit to Britain: report

China has threatened to strip Liverpool of its twin city status with Shanghai if officials from the British city meet exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama next week, a report said.

A diplomatic row has broken out between Beijing and London over the visit of the 68-year-old Buddhist leader, with China trying some distinctly strong-arm tactics, the Observer newspaper said.

Among these is an ultimatum from the Chinese embassy in London to Liverpool City Council to cancel meetings with the Dalai Lama or lose its links with Shanghai, China's commercial capital and, like Liverpool, a major port city.

However the Dalai Lama's programme, which will see him head to London and Glasgow as well as Liverpool, in northwest England, is expected to go ahead as planned, the Observer said.

It will also see him meet British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and heir to the British throne Prince Charles, dates which have raised China's ire as well, the newspaper added.

The Dalai Lama will be arriving hot on the heels of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who called into London as part of a six-leg European visit earlier this month.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after an abortive uprising in 1959 and established a government-in-exile in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

China, which has occupied Tibet since 1951, has been accused of trying to wipe out its Buddhist-based culture through political and religious repression and a flood of ethnic Chinese immigration.