A former top ruling Chinese Communist Party aide has warned Beijing not to interfere with the proceedings of a Spanish court, which recently named former Chinese leaders as suspects in a human rights abuse case involving a Spanish national of Tibetan descent.
Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and former premier Li Peng could face arrest when traveling overseas after the court named them, along with three other former top officials, as suspects in a human rights case brought in 2006 by two Tibetan campaign groups and a Tibetan monk with Spanish nationality.
Under Spanish law, suspects can be tried for human rights abuses committed in other countries, if a Spanish national is named as a victim.
The officials are accused of human rights abuses in the Himalayan region. The same court last month agreed to hear charges against former president Hu Jintao for alleged genocide in Tibet.
Arrest warrants will now be issued, which could result in the former leaders' arrest in certain countries.
Former top party aide Bao Tong, who has been under house arrest in Beijing since serving a seven-year jail term in the wake of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement, warned Beijing not to overstep its sovereignty.
"I think that the way in which a Spanish court handles cases is an internal matter for Spain, and we shouldn't interfere," Bao said, in a reference to Beijing's insistence on the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other nations, a core tenet of its foreign policy.
"If other people are making it up, then why don't you make the facts public? That's the only way to deal with people concocting stories."
"The word 'fabrication' by itself isn't going to make things clearer," said Bao, who is a vocal advocate of political reform for the Communist Party.
Chinese officials said this week that they had sought clarification directly from the Spanish government, but hit out at the idea of arrest warrants on former leaders for human rights abuses.
China expressed "strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the Tibetan support groups in Spain for "repeatedly manipulating the issue," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
Buddhist monk Thubten Wangchen, a Spanish national of Tibetan origin, has said that the aim of the lawsuit is to focus international attention on the suffering of Tibetans under Chinese rule, rather than to arrest any particular individual.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Mo Shaoping said those who perpetrate crimes against humanity, including genocide, should be pursued through the international justice system.
"The crime of genocide is a crime against universal values that should be pursued internationally if it can't be pursued in the country in which it occurred," Mo said.
"It doesn't matter whether [the suspects] were in charge at the time; if their actions amounted to crimes against universal values, then this is totally in keeping with a legal stance, if international courts pursue it," he said.
In 1998, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London after a warrant was issued by former Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon.
Top Chinese adviser Zhu Weiqun, who heads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of China's top advisory body to parliament, said the case was absurd.
In comments published by Chinese state media on Tuesday before the ruling, Zhu warned that "enormous embarrassment" would follow any attempt to pursue the case against former Chinese leaders.
"Go ahead if you dare," Zhu said.
Exiled Tibetan groups are campaigning for the return of the Dalai Lama and self-rule for their region.
Demonstrations and protests challenging Beijing's rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 123 Tibetans in China have set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.