Barack Obama to meet Dalai Lama; China warns it will damage bilateral ties

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Feb 22 2014, 01:00am hrs
Barack ObamaObama and the Dalai Lama - both Nobel Peace Prize laureates - have met twice before, in 2010 and 2011. Reuters
Hours before US President Barack Obama's meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama at the White House, China today demanded its immediate cancellation, warning that the unjustified interference in its domestic affairs will cause "great damage" to bilateral ties.

US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden yesterday announced that President Obama "will meet the Dalai Lama in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader" on Friday.

The White House announcement drew sharp reaction from China, which has long opposed foreign dignitaries meeting with the 78-year-old Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959.

"We urge the United States to take China's concerns seriously and not to facilitate or offer occasion for the Dalai Lama to conduct anti-China secessionist moves," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

"China is greatly concerned about the meeting, and has lodged solemn representations to the US side," Hua said.

The Tibetan issue is a domestic affair for China, she said, adding that there is no other country which bears the right to interfere.

The arranged meeting is an unjustified interference with China's domestic affairs and a serious violation of the principles of international relations, and will cause great damage to China-US relations, Hua warned.

"We urge United States to take China's concerns seriously and cancel the relevant meeting and do not provide platform for Dalai's separatist activities in the US," Hua told a media briefing in Beijing.

Asked how China will respond if Obama went ahead with the meeting, she said China is firmly opposed to any foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama.

"I also want to stress that any country if it is bent on China's interests then it will find that its own interests can get hurt in the very end. Therefore we urge the US government to immediately cancel the relevant meeting so as to avoid damaging China-US relations," she said.

Obama and the Dalai Lama - both Nobel Peace Prize laureates - have met twice before, in 2010 and 2011, which drew similar protests from China.

Asked whether the meeting would adversely impact on the likely meeting between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Disarmament meeting next month, Hua said it is a hypothetical question.

"US President can decide whom he will meet but he cannot meet the Dalai Lama because he is not a pure religious figure," she said when asked why Obama cannot decide whom to meet or not.

"The Dalai Lama is a political figure in exile who is undertaking anti-China separatist activities in the name of religion," she said.

Recalling that the US Presidents of both parties over the past three decades have met with the Tibetan spiritual leader, US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said the US supported the Dalai Lama's "middle way" approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans but recognised Tibet to be "a part of China".

"We do not support Tibetan independence," she said.

Hayden said the US strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China.

"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China. We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions," Hayden said.

However, Hua questioned the Dalai Lama's assertion that he would like Tibet to be part of China and all he wanted was autonomy.

"His so-called middle way proposal should be studied.

Actually this middle way proposal is political platform for the realisation of Tibet independence in a step by step manner," she said.

"The middle way is an initial attempt to separate China little by little. This is what we will not allow. We hope the international community see through the real intention of the Dalai Lama who is engaged in anti-China separatist activities around the world," she said.

"Dalai also claims he is non-violent, but Tibetan Youth Congress, which he trained has been inciting violence and terrorism and China has also has concrete evidence to show that the violent incidents that have taken place in Tibet were instigated by the Dalai clique," she said.

She also took umbrage at Hyden's remarks expressing concerns over human rights situation in Tibet where over 100 Tibetan committed self immolations in recent months calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.

"Chinese people are in best position to say on human rights position in Tibet. We can see that over the past 60 years peaceful liberation of Tibet, the serfs in old day have become masters of their own lives. Quick changes have taken place in Tibet. These are basic facts that can not be denied by people who have no bias," she said.