China has denounced a decision by the Paris city council to bestow honorary citizenship on Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, calling it an insult.

In Beijing Tuesday, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the gesture in Paris was a grave provocation to all of China's people, including Tibetans, that could damage the two countries' relations.

Pro-Tibet protests during the Olympic torch relay in Paris have triggered an angry response from the Chinese and a boycott of French goods and companies in China.

The French government is sending a number of officials to China this week to help calm growing tensions.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will also travel to China for a two-day visit starting Thursday.

In an apparent attempt to calm Chinese anger, President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday sent a letter to a wheelchair-bound Chinese athlete who was targeted by a pro-Tibet protester during the Paris relay.

Shortly after Mr. Sarkozy sent his letter to the athlete on Monday, the Paris city council declared honorary citizenship for the Dalai Lama and an imprisoned Chinese dissident Hu Jia.

The Dalai Lama met Monday with a top U.S. official in the United States and urged Washington to help Tibet resolve its conflict with the Chinese government.

In response to that meeting between the Dalai Lama and Paula Dobriansky, the U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues and under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, China charged Washington is aiding the Dalai Lama in what it calls his separatist activities.

China contends the Dalai Lama masterminded several weeks of protests in Tibetan areas of China, allegedly in a campaign for Tibetan independence.  The Dalai Lama denies that he triggered the protests, and says he only wants autonomy for Tibet.

Tibet's government-in-exile says more than 150 people have died in the Chinese crackdown on mostly monk-led protests.  China blames Tibetan rioters for the deaths of at least 20 people.