The Dalai Lama is at the centre of a diplomatic row between the Chinese consulate and Liverpool City Council.
China said the Dalai Lama's visit would hurt Liverpool's Chinese links
The Buddhist spiritual leader has been invited to give a lecture at Liverpool John Moores University next month.
But the Chinese have warned the visit could affect Liverpool City Council's links with its twin city Shanghai, in southern China.
The Free Tibet Campaign group has accused the Chinese government of trying to bully the city council.
The university invited the Dalai Lama to Liverpool several years ago and he is due in the city on 27 May, when he will give a lecture and also attend a civic lunch in the Town Hall.
But Chinese officials claim the visit, which is his first to the UK since 1999 , would be inappropriate.
Both the university and the city council have refused to back down.
A city council spokesman said the Chinese had spoken to council chiefs about their concerns.
He added: "The Dalai Lama is visiting Liverpool on 27 May to make the annual Roscoe lecture for John Moores University.
"As part of his visit - which is timely as it is taking place during the city's Year of Faith - the Lord Mayor is hosting a civic lunch for him and other faith leaders at the Town Hall.
"This is no different to the way any other spiritual or faith leader visiting the city would be welcomed."
The university said the Dalai Lama was invited as a spiritual leader and Nobel prize winner.
He is due to give a lecture on "Secular Ethics" in front of an invited audience and will be awarded an honorary fellowship.
A spokeswoman said: "This is an academic lecture not a political rally and the university has no intention of embarrassing the Chinese government.
"It is one of the stated values of the university to 'question accepted views and to defend independence of thought'.
"The vice chancellor, Professor Michael Brown, has reassured the Chinese ambassador personally that a lecture of this nature is part of normal university business and contacts between JMU and Chinese representatives remain cordial."