Britain does not support a Tibetan state independent of China, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday amid reports of Chinese anger at his meeting with the Dalai Lama last year.
Cameron told parliament that Britain respected China’s sovereignty and ministers recognised Tibet as part of China.
Britain officials deny that Chinese anger at the meeting between Cameron and the Tibetan spiritual leader in May last year could scupper the prime minister’s plans to visit China by the end of this year.
The Chinese government takes a dim view of ministers from foreign governments meeting the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of encouraging separatism and violence.
Cameron told lawmakers he had spoken to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and he hoped Britain could build a better relationship with China.
He said: “Let us be absolutely clear – this government has not changed the long-standing British policy towards China and Tibet.
“We do want to have a strong and positive relationship with China, which I believe is in our mutual benefit.
“The Chinese government is aware of our policy on Tibet. We recognise Tibet as part of China. We do not support Tibetan independence and we respect China’s sovereignty.
“When I spoke to Premier Li recently, we both looked forward to both countries working very closely together in the months and years ahead.”
The meeting between Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the Dalai Lama in London was part of the government’s approach of seeking “dialogue and discussion and gathering a wide range of viewpoints on issues of importance”, a spokesman for Cameron said on Tuesday.
The spokesman added: “It is entirely reasonable for the prime minister to decide who he meets.
“The Chinese government always lobbies hard against any meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama. We have made clear in advance to the Chinese government that British ministers will decide who they meet and when they meet them.”