Obama and Dalai Lama meeting scorned

Updated: 2014-02-23 07:46

By Chen Weihua in Washington and Pu Zhendong in Beijing (China Daily)

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Closed-door White House encounter draws China's ire

Friday's meeting between US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, which took place despite China's warnings, has prompted sharp criticism from the Chinese government and observers.

Obama hosted a closed-door meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday morning, defying repeated protests from Beijing since the meeting was announced on Thursday.

Beijing voiced immediate opposition after the meeting, decrying Washington for meddling in China's domestic affairs.

Calling the Tibet autonomous region a "sacred and inalienable part of China", Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang slammed Washington for "grossly interfering in China's internal affairs" and reaffirmed that Tibet-related affairs allow no foreign interference.

"The US, who gave the green light to the Dalai Lama's visit and arranged his meeting with the US President, has reneged on its commitment of recognizing Tibet as a part of China and not supporting 'Tibet independence', severely violated basic norms governing international relations and caused grave damage to China-US relations," Qin said.

"We urge the US side to take China's concerns seriously, cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces that seek 'Tibet independence' and take immediate steps to remove the adverse impact so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations."

Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui on Friday night summoned Daniel Kritenbrink, charge d'affaires of the US embassy in China, to lodge solemn representations for the meeting.

"The United States, on the one hand, recognizes that Tibet is part of China and has agreed not to support 'Tibet independence' while on the other hand has arranged the meeting between its leader and the Dalai Lama," he said.

In Washington, Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US, made solemn representations to the US government on Friday, urging Washington to take immediate and effective measures to correct the mistake.

"Showing respect to each other's core interests and major concerns is key to ensuring the sound and steady development of China-US relations," Cui said.

Experts said that Obama was using human rights and religious freedom as a pretext to meddle in China's internal affairs, which is unacceptable to China.

He Tongmei, a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, said it is simply not acceptable to China that US President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama regardless of the strong protest from the Chinese government.

"Pushing forward the China-US relationship calls for the common endeavor by both nations," she said.

He said the two countries must strengthen communications to help mainstream US society change its prejudice on Tibet-related issues.

Zhu Zhiqun, director of the China Institute and professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University, said the problem derives from sharply different perceptions of Tibet and the Dalai Lama by the two countries.

"However, the Sino-US relationship is strong enough to withstand any negative impact of the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting," he said.

Friday's meeting, which took place in the White House Map Room instead of the Oval Office, was closed to the media. Unlike previous meetings, the Dalai Lama did not speak to reporters afterward.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the meeting as in keeping with the past practice of presidents of both parties. He said the Dalai Lama was in his capacity as "a respected religious and cultural leader".

"The president and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and constructive US-China relationship," Carney told the White House daily briefing on Friday afternoon.

Cui, the Chinese ambassador, dismissed as "self-deceiving" the US claim because Washington knows well the Tibetan monk's true colors.

The meeting will only cause troubles for the United States and definitely undermines its interests, Cui said.

Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that no matter how meticulously Washington was trying to arrange the meeting in order not to upset Beijing, its intention to challenge China's core interest did not change.

"On one hand, the US accepts Tibet as part of China, but on the other hand, it endorses the Dalai Lama and his clique, who are actively seeking Tibet independence," Shen said.

Contact the writers at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com and puzhendong@chinadaily.com.cn.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

(China Daily 02/23/2014 page2)