HONG KONG — A Chinese official warned on Wednesday that a meeting scheduled to take place in Washington between President Obama and the Dalai Lama would “undermine mutual trust and cooperation” between the two countries.
Mr. Obama planned to meet with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader at the White House on Wednesday morning.
Beijing routinely pressures foreign leaders not to meet the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of seeking Tibet’s independence from China. The Dalai Lama, however, says he merely wants to protect Tibetans and their homeland’s identity.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press
“Tibet affairs are part of China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday. He accused the Dalai Lama of “long conducting anti-China splittist activities on the world stage under the cloak of religion.”
Foreign leaders have increasingly declined to meet with the Dalai Lama, fearing retaliation from Beijing. China protested and canceled high-level visits to Britain after Prime Minister David Cameron met with him in 2012. When the Dalai Lama visited Britain again three years later, Mr. Cameron avoided him, something the Tibetan spiritual leader suggested was because of concerns about trade.
United States officials have continued to meet with the Dalai Lama, though the White House avoids making such exchanges into high-profile affairs. Mr. Obama has met the Dalai Lama on multiple occasions during his administration, most recently in 2014. In 2015, both men attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, although they did not meet individually.
Mr. Obama usually meets with the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House rather than the Oval Office, and video cameras are generally not allowed, so still photographs released by the White House are the only images of the encounters.
In 2010, the Dalai Lama was photographed leaving the White House via an exit flanked with piles of trash bags, prompting criticism that he had not been given the respect he deserved.
The United States has long recognized Tibet, which People’s Liberation Army troops entered in 1950, as a part of China. But the White House has also indicated support for the Dalai Lama’s “middle way,” which says that Tibet should be neither independent nor dominated by China, but enjoy the autonomy promised by Chinese law. The Dalai Lama says that Tibet’s current status does not provide adequate protection for Tibetan religion, culture or language.
In recent years, many Tibetans have demonstrated against Chinese rule over their homeland, and more than 140 have set themselves on fire. More than 100,000 Tibetans live in exile, most in India, which has been the Dalai Lama’s home since he fled Tibet in 1959.
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