A Spanish court has issued an arrest warrant against former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and ex-prime minister Li Peng for genocide in Tibet.

The National Court in Madrid accepted arguments by pro-Tibetan rights groups that the two former top Communist officials should be arrested and tried over their responsibility for crimes against humanity.

Chinese foreign minister Hong Lei demanded a clarification to the Spanish government.

"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 declined to comment.

Chinese forces invaded Tibet in 1950 after claiming sovereignty forcing Tibetans to follow Communist rule.

In 2006, the Tibetan Support Committee, a Madrid-based group of Tibetan exiles, filed lawsuits in Spanish courts against numerous Communist party leaders accusing them of orchestrating a violent crackdown and eventual genocide to stem Tibetan unrest in the 1980s and 90s.

"[It is] a futile attempt to attack the Chinese government," Hong said. "This despicable act is doomed to fail."

The National Court ruled it had the jurisdiction to hear the case.

Madrid judges noted that one plaintiff, Tibetan monk Thubten Wangchen, was a Spanish citizen. Spain accepts the universal justice principle under which genocide suspects can be tried anywhere in the world.

One of the court's first acts was to officially indict former Chinese president Hu Jintao.