Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (R) talks with New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton (L), Liberal leader Stephane Dion (2nd L) and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in Ottawa October 30, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA)
OTTAWA, October 30 - With Beijing calling his Canadian visit "gross interference" in China's domestic affairs, the Dalai Lama said Tuesday that the country's Communist Party cannot survive without criticism.
"In China, (it's) a one-party system," the Dalai Lama said as he began a meeting with leaders of all three federal opposition parties at a local hotel.
The spiritual leader of Tibetan Bhuddists said the father of Chinese communism, Mao Zedong, insisted on criticism from both inside and outside the Communist Party.
He called Chairman Mao's philosophy "very wise" but added that domestic criticism of the Chinese regime has been "wiped out."
"He always placed emphasis that the Communist Party needs criticism," said the Dalai Lama. "Without criticism, including self-criticism, without that like fish without water - cannot survive.
"Similarly, the Communist Party cannot survive without criticism."
The Dalai Lama's highly publicized meeting in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary office on Monday has been criticized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as "gross interference" in China's internal affairs.
Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with the meeting, saying China hopes hopes Canada can "reflect on and correct the erroneous actions."
The warm reception for the Dalai Lama, who was granted honorary Canadian citizenship in 2006, was also strongly criticized by officials at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, who held a late-day news conference Monday.
"It is a blatant interference in China's internal affairs and has severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and will gravely undermine the relationship between China and Canada," said political counsellor Sun Lushan, who would not specify what the concrete consequences might be.
The red carpet treatment was just the latest in a string of warm western welcomes for the Dalai Lama that have included meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Dalai Lama is lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, but Beijing claims the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing for Tibet's independence.
China has ruled with a heavy hand since its forces invaded in 1951. The Dalai Lama, who fled Chinese rule for exile in northern India in 1959, remains immensely popular in Tibet and says he wants autonomy for the vast Himalayan region, not independence.
Harper's secretary of state for multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, made clear his government remains unfazed by China's protests. He pointed out that exports to China and Chinese tourism have actually risen in the year since Parliament bestowed honorary citizenship on the Dalai Lama.
"I hope the entire world gets the message that attacking a 72-year-old Buddhist monk who advocates nothing more than cultural autonomy for his people is counterproductive," said Kenney, a longtime advocate for human rights in China.