Obama meets Dalai Lama privately

WASHINGTON • US President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House yesterday, a move certain to have angered China which considers the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a dangerous separatist.

Mr Obama and the Dalai Lama met privately, a White House statement said.

Beijing had earlier lodged diplomatic representations with Washington over the planned meeting, saying it would damage Chinese-US ties, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

"If the United States plans this meeting, it will send the wrong signal to Tibet independence and separatist forces and harm China-US mutual trust and cooperation."

Any attempt to take advantage of the Tibet issue and undermine stability will not succeed, Mr Lu said, adding that China"resolutely opposed" the meeting.

On Tuesday, Mr Lu said the issue touched on the "one China" policy, a basic diplomatic tenet that Beijing insists foreign governments recognise. "We demand the US government earnestly stands by its promises, conscientiously handle the relevant issue in accordance with the one China principle and not give any space to any individual or behaviour which tries... to split China," he said.

He also said the Dalai Lama was not a purely religious figure, but a political exile who has long used religion to conduct separatist and anti-China activities.

Mr Obama met the Dalai Lama when the latter visited Washington in 2014, and angered China then when he vowed "strong support" for Tibetans' human rights.

The Dalai Lama says he wants genuine autonomy for Tibet rather than independence.

He told Reuters that Mr Obama was a "long-time friend" whom he admired for his work to normalise relations with Cuba, on Iran and for his recent visits to former US foe Vietnam and the site of the Hiroshima atomic bombing in Japan.

Asked how Beijing might respond to a meeting, the Dalai Lama said: "I don't know - you should ask them. I think in Peking (Beijing), we cannot as of now... generalise. In Peking, there are different views. Some people there have a more realistic view. Some are more hardline, which is more narrow-minded."

China describes the incorporation of Tibet into its territory in 1951 as a "peaceful liberation".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Obama meets Dalai Lama privately'. Print Edition | Subscribe