China anger over Spanish arrest warrant for Jiang Zemin

BEIJING - Beijing expressed anger on Tuesday after a Spanish judge sought arrest warrants for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and four other senior officials as part of a probe into alleged genocide in Tibet.

"China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposed to the erroneous acts taken by the Spanish agencies in disregard of China's position," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing.

Hua's comments came after Spanish High Court Judge Ismael Moreno on Monday ordered Interpol to issue arrest warrants for the five for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity, in a case brought against them by human rights groups.

"Jiang exercised supervisory authority over the people who directly committed abuses, which makes him responsible for acts of torture and other major abuses of human rights perpetrated by his subordinates against the people of Tibet," Moreno wrote in his ruling.

"He promoted and actively implemented policies whose objective was to populate the Autonomous Region of Tibet with a majority from the Han ethnic group, detain thousands of Tibetans during lengthy periods, torture the detained and submit them to other illegal abuses."

In addition to Jiang, the judge ordered the arrest of former premier Li Peng and three others.

The High Court in November said it had accepted arguments from Spanish pro-Tibet human rights groups that the five men may have had a role in human rights abuses and should be questioned.

The case was brought by the rights groups under Spain's recognition of "universal jurisdiction", a doctrine that allows judges to hear certain cases of human rights abuses committed in other countries.

The theory allowed Spain's former judge Baltasar Garzon to try to arrest and put on trial the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Jiang is unlikely ever to appear in a Spanish dock, but Hua blasted what she referred to as overseas groups pursuing Tibetan independence and called for the Spanish government to "see through the Dalai group's attempt to split the country", referring to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Still, she emphasised that as China does not interfere in other countries' affairs it had no comment on how "domestic forces in Spain deal with" the issue.

"But I believe this incident concerns the sound development of bilateral relations, so we hope that the Spanish government can properly deal with this matter and tell right from wrong," she added.

While very few probes opened under "universal jurisdiction" have seen the accused brought to trial in Spain, investigations have irritated some countries.

Last month, lawmakers from Spain's ruling Popular Party tabled a bill to limit courts' use of the doctrine.