China today protested about Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to London yesterday.
Britain's ambassador in Beijing, Sebastian Wood, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive a rebuke from China's Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao.
Mr Song said the meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader amounted to serious interference in China's internal affairs.
Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg met the Dalai Lama privately yesterday at St Paul's Cathedral, where he was receiving the £1.1 million Templeton Prize for his work affirming the spiritual dimension of life. He donated the bulk of the prize to Save the Children to support its work in India.
China's Foreign Ministry said Mr Song told Mr Wood British leaders should consider the "serious consequences" of meeting the Dalai Lama, who is regarded as a separatist by Beijing.
The meeting "seriously interfered with China's internal affairs, undermined China's core interests, and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people", said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.
Mr Song urged Britain to take "practical actions to correct the error".
Mr Cameron's official spokesman said: "The Dalai Lama is an important religious figure.
"We don't want to see our relationship with China disrupted by the visit of the Dalai Lama.
"The Dalai Lama travels all over the world and has visited the UK several times in the past, and I believe that former prime ministers also met with him when they were in office."
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "British ministers believe that who they see is a matter for them.
"The Dalai Lama is an important religious figure and the Prime Minister expects to meet important religious figures from time to time.
"If they choose to see someone, it does not necessarily indicate they support that individual's viewpoint. Ministers place value on dialogue, discussion and gathering a wide range of viewpoints on issues of importance."