The White House National Security Council said Obama would meet
the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, at the White House on
Friday in a show of concern about China's human rights practices.
China calls the Dalai Lama a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to
use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet. The Dalai
Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, maintains
he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating
"The United States' arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai
would be a gross interference in China's internal affairs and is a
serious violation of the norms of international relations," Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
"It will seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations. We urge the United
States to take seriously China's concerns, immediately cancel plans
for the U.S. leader to meet the Dalai, do not facilitate and provide
a platform for Dalai's anti-China separatist activities in the
United States," she added.
The announcement comes at a delicate time for Sino-U.S. relations.
The United States has expressed concern about China's increasingly
assertive behavior in the East China Sea and South China Sea and
Obama's U.S. strategic pivot, or rebalancing, toward Asia, is seen
as a reaction to the growing clout of China.
At the same time, both countries are increasingly inter-dependent
and have to cooperate on international issues such as Iran and North
Korea. China is also the United States' biggest foreign creditor. As
of July 31, China held $1.28 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds,
according to Treasury Department data.
A senior Chinese official vowed this week to ignore foreign pressure
on human rights, and said foreign leaders who meet the Dalai Lama
should "pay a price" for it.
NO SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES
Diplomats in Beijing have told Reuters Obama and Chinese President
Xi Jinping are expected to meet at a nuclear security summit in the
Netherlands next month.
When asked whether China would cancel the meeting, Hua later said at
a daily news briefing: "If any country deliberately insists on
harming China's interests, in the end, it will also damage its own
interests and will harm the bilateral relations between China and
the relevant country."
"(If) the U.S. president wishes to meet any person, it's his own
affair, but he cannot meet the Dalai," she said. "The Dalai is
definitely not a pure religious figure. He is using the cloak of
religion to engage in long-term activities to separate China, he is
a political exile."
But previous meetings between Obama and the Dalai Lama have not had
In 2011, after the last meeting between the two, China responded
with predictably vehement words but stopped short of threatening
retaliation, indicating that Beijing was keen to avoid tensions
between the world's biggest economies.
"I think China will send a strong message of protest publicly and
privately, trying to warn President Obama to not go too far, because
we still have a major, new relationship to build," said Sun Zhe,
director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Beijing's elite
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Xi has stressed repeatedly that China wants to build "a new brand of
relations between major powers", based on principles of
non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and cooperation.
Friday's meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama comes less than a
week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited China. It is
unclear whether he had briefed China in advance about the planned
In what appeared to be a small concession to the Chinese, Obama will
see the Dalai Lama in the White House Map Room, a historically
important room but of less significance than the Oval Office, the
president's inner sanctum.
The United States recognizes Tibet as part of China and does not
support Tibetan independence, but supports the Dalai Lama's approach
for more autonomy, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White
House National Security Council.
"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating
human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," Hayden said.
In Tibetan regions of China, including four provinces outside Tibet,
more than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in
protest against Chinese rule. Most have died.
The White House views the Dalai Lama as "an internationally
respected religious and cultural leader" and noted Obama had met him
twice before, in February 2010 and July 2011.
"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 in a statement
announcing the 10 a.m.(1500 GMT) meeting.
The Dalai Lama was in Washington on Thursday, meeting the American
Enterprise Institute, a conservative organization. In a speech
there, he did not address the issue of Tibet, but stressed that
there was a general need for "compassion, tolerance and forgiveness"
in the world.
Communist Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1950. China says
it "peacefully liberated" the remote region that it says was mired
in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation.
Exiles and rights groups say China tramples on the religious,
cultural and linguistic rights of Tibetans and enforces its rule
using brutal methods.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom in
Washington and Natalie Thomas and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; editing
by Peter Cooney and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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