The Chinese Embassy in Rome has warned against the Milan city council's plan to confer the Dalai Lama with an honorary citizenship, stating that such action would result in damaging the bilateral relations.
The Dalai Lama, who is on a trip to Europe since 16 October, is presently in Rome on a three-day visit from Thursday (20 October) and is meeting with Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola. He is also speaking with the students at the University of Milano-Bicocca.
However, his visit is reported to have irked China and its embassy in Rome said that honouring the Dalai Lama "has seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people" and expressed its "strong protest and firm opposition", the Associated Press reported.
Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of promoting independence for Tibet from the rest of China, while the Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk has been saying that he only wants a higher degree of freedom for his homeland Tibet.
The Dalai Lama reportedly told a local Italian newspaper that the situation in Tibet "remains extremely grim and repressive, characterised by constant controls of Tibetans, who are denied many basic human rights."
"Whether they admit it or not, Tibet remains a thorn for China, which wants to play an important role in the world," AP quoted him as saying.
The 80-year-old monk's visit to Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this week also caused China to react strongly. Although the four highest-ranking officials from Czech stayed away from meeting the spiritual leader, China vowed to retaliate for Prague's action. The country is said to be seeking calm with Beijing now, Reuters reported.
The monk was in Prague to attend a pro-democracy conference that was co-founded in 1996 by the late Czech president Vaclav Havel, who reportedly had close contacts with the Dalai Lama.
China said it was "extremely dissatisfied" with the meeting and warned international officials against meeting the Dalai Lama. Slovakia also angered Beijing when its President Andrej Kiska met the monk over lunch on 16 October. The communist country sees such meetings as contrary to the "one China" policy, which governments like Slovak promised to uphold.