By Lindsay Beck
Beijing, November 1 - A wave of high-level visits by the Dalai Lama to Western countries will have no effect on the status of Chinese-ruled Tibet, and will only serve to harm relations with Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
The Dalai Lama, considered the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, was received by the leaders of Canada and the United States last month and met the Australian prime minister and German chancellor earlier this year.
"Some countries or people support the Dalai Lama with the ulterior motive of trying to interfere in China's internal affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.
"I think their attempts will change nothing ... It cannot change the Chinese people, including Tibet compatriots, safeguarding the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
China has reviled the Dalai Lama as a political exile and a traitor since he fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
In his latest diplomatic move, the Dalai Lama is to meet Pope Benedict at the Vatican in December.
Such a visit could derail a tentative thaw in relations between China and the Vatican, which has not had formal ties with Beijing since shortly after the Communist government swept to power in 1949.
"We hope the Vatican side will not do anything that will hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Instead, it should take actions that show it is sincere in improving relations," Liu said.
The Dalai Lama was received by Pope Benedict in a low-profile visit last year, and he has also met the late Pope John Paul.
Liu also denied a report from the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet that Chinese border guards fired on a group of Tibetans fleeing across the Himalayas into Nepal last month.
"The information that Chinese police tried to shoot at border crossers in totally groundless," Liu said. "It is made up."
Last year, a young nun was killed when Chinese guards fired on a group of Tibetans attempting to cross in the same area -- the glaciated pass of Nangpa La. That incident was witnessed by a group of foreign mountain climbers.
Activists pushing for a free Tibet have also objected to Beijing's hosting of the Olympics in 2008, citing its human rights record in the remote, mountainous region.
(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome)