Beijing has called off a meeting between Chinese and German officials that was planned for Sunday, the day the Dalai Lama is to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an official said.

China canceled the meeting in Munich, which was part of a bilateral dialogue on legal issues and was to include German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, citing "technical reasons," a spokeswoman for Zypries' ministry said Saturday on customary condition of anonymity.

The cancellation was received Friday; the Dalai Lama's planned meeting with Merkel at the chancellery was not mentioned.

German officials have characterized the meeting as a private encounter with a religious leader, but Beijing has criticized the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's visit.

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the visit was intended to further what Beijing alleges is an agenda to seek independence for the Himalayan region. It argued that the Dalai Lama was using religion to further his political agenda.

Sunday's meeting will be the first time that the Dalai Lama has been received at the German chancellery. On Thursday, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer of neighboring Austria met with him at the chancellery in Vienna.

China routinely criticizes visits abroad by the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for India in 1959 during a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize remains popular among Tibetans and widely respected abroad, despite efforts to undermine him by Chinese authorities.

China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that period.