A senior Chinese officials has criticised foreign leaders for meeting the Dalai Lama, and vowed to stop religiously inspired secessionist movements. Zhang Yijiong, vice-minister of the United Front Work Department – the agency responsible for relations with non-Communist groups – said on Saturday that the Communist Party had made progress on the “Sinofication” of religions. Human rights observers have reported an official crackdown on religious activities, including Tibetan Buddhism of which Dalai Lama is the leader, but the central government has denied the accusation and emphasised the need for public security. “We strong oppose infiltrating, secessionist and disruptive activities and violent acts of terrorism in the name of religion,” Zhang said on the sidelines of the party congress. Efforts to make foreign religions such as Christianity more “Chinese” are ongoing and the Communist Party has issued“clear, strong and effective” guidance on religious work, he said. Zhang added that the authorities were trying to “lead the country’s religious developments by socialist core values”. Beijing has been at loggerheads with the Vatican over its insistence on appointing church officials – something the Roman Catholic Church opposes – and the church’s insistence on maintaining formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Vatican insists it will continue to recognise Taiwan despite reports of thaw in relations with Beijing Zhang, who heads the Communist Party’s Tibet working group and worked in the region from 2006-2010 as a deputy party boss, said that Tibetan Buddhism was a special religion “born in our ancient China”. “It’s a Chinese religion. It didn’t come in from the outside,” he said. China considers the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, to be a dangerous separatist. The Nobel Peace Prize winner says he simply seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland. Zhang also warned foreign leaders not meet the Dalai Lama “in a personal capacity” or treat him as purely religious figure, saying this was “incorrect”. “Officials … represent their governments. So I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration to their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty,” he added. Former US president Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama for four times during his eight years in the White House. Top US Democrat Nancy Pelosi visits Dalai Lama in India as Trump warms to China Zhang also said the United Front Work Department had inspired anti-secessionist activities in Hong Kong and Taiwan. “We guided compatriots from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as well as overseas Chinese nationals to actively participate in opposing independence and advance peaceful reunification of the country,” Zhang said. The department also encouraged people from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to “offer their advice” on China’s major development strategy, Zhang said.