China summons Spanish ambassador over Tibet arrest warrants

MADRID (REUTERS) - China's foreign ministry summoned Spain's ambassador on Thursday after a Spanish court ruled that several of its former leaders should be arrested over allegations they had committed genocide in Tibet, the Spanish foreign ministry confirmed on Friday.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and ex-prime minister Li Peng could face arrest when travelling abroad following a ruling from Spain's High Court on Tuesday.

Three other former high-ranking Chinese officials were also affected by the order, which triggered arrest warrants. They could be detained when they travel to Spain or other countries which recognise orders signed by Spain.

Beijing dismissed the case as absurd earlier this week and said it had sought clarification from Spain. The Chinese foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

"The case is being followed very carefully by Spain's foreign ministry and with some concern that these court actions could affect relations with China, which are very good," a Madrid diplomatic source said.

Beijing had transmitted its "deep unease" over the ruling in the meeting with the ambassador, the source added.

Discussions between senior Spanish foreign ministry officials and Chinese representatives have also taken place in Madrid.

Two Tibetan support groups and a monk with Spanish nationality brought the case against the former Chinese leaders in 2006 using Spanish law, which allows suspects to be tried for human rights abuses committed abroad when a Spanish victim is involved.

The Chinese officials are accused of human rights abuses in Tibet, which communist Chinese troops took control of in 1950.

China says it "peacefully liberated" the Himalayan region it says was mired in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation.

Last month, another ruling by the same Spanish court indicted former Chinese president Hu Jintao for alleged genocide in Tibet, a move denounced by China's government as interfering with its internal affairs.

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