Latest: Despite stern warnings from Beijing, US President George W. Bush met with the Dalai Lama “privately” in the White House Tuesday.
The White House attempted to defend the meeting in the president's residence.
Presidential spokesman Tony Fratto said: "We understand the concerns of the Chinese." But he also said Bush always has attended congressional award presentation ceremonies, has met with the Dalai Lama several times before and had no reason not to meet with him again.
Aides to Mr. Bush declined to disclose details of the discussion, and the White House would not release a photograph of the two together, as it has during previous visits.
“We in no way want to stir the pot and make China feel that we are poking a stick in their eye,” Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, told reporters, adding, “We understand the Chinese have very strong feelings about this.”
On Wednesday, Bush and US lawmakers will present the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Don't meet Dalai Lama, Bush urged
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Tuesday urged US President George W. Bush to cancel a planned meeting with the Dalai Lama, warning it can have "an extremely serious impact" on bilateral relations.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi speaks at a group discussion during the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing Tuesday, October 16, 2007. [China Daily]
Bush and the Dalai Lama - viewed by China as a political exile who has long engaged in separatist activities - were scheduled to meet at the White House on Tuesday on the eve of a public ceremony to award him the US Congressional Gold Medal.
"We express our extreme dissatisfaction and strong opposition. We solemnly demand that the US side cancel the extremely wrong arrangement," Yang told reporters on the sidelines of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The meeting will be a gross violation of the norms of international relations and it severely hurts the feelings of the Chinese people, said Yang, who is also a delegate to the Party congress. "The Chinese side has made solemn representations on this many times."
The planned meeting will be the third since the US leader took office in January 2001, but will be the first time a sitting US president appears in public with the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama poses as a Buddhist spiritual leader, but is actually a cat's paw for some people, Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said at a separate briefing on the sidelines of the congress.
"The meeting is not the first, nor will it be the last. But his influence is very limited," said Qiangba Puncog, also a delegate to the Party congress.
Tibet's Party chief Zhang Qingli also voiced his indignation.
"The Dalai Lama has never stopped his secessionist activities since he fled China 48 years ago," Zhang said. "How can someone who does not love his own country, and even seeks to split it, receive a welcome in some countries and even get awards?"
The Tibetans' quality of life has greatly improved in the past decades and they know very well who really cares for their well-being, Zhang said.
According to Qiangba Puncog, contacts between the central government and the Dalai Lama have been ongoing, but the dialogue was not going well.
"The central government's policy is consistent. The Dalai Lama must give up his 'Tibet independence' claim and all secessionist activities, and admit that Tibet is an inalienable part of China," he said.
"Although we have had many contacts, the Dalai Lama has never abandoned 'Tibetan independence'," he said. "Under such circumstances, there cannot be major progress."
The central government has never closed the door on consultation and contacts with the Dalai Lama even though he has done a lot to undermine Tibet's social stability, he added.