China has asked the U.S. to cancel a meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, scheduled for Friday, saying that it would damage ties between the two countries.
Obama is supposed to meet the Nobel Peace Prize laureate at the White House to discuss concerns about China’s human rights record. China believes that the Dalai Lama is using violent methods to establish an independent Tibet, while the Tibetan leader, who lives in exile in India's Dharamsala, has denied the claim, reiterating that he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.
“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 Friday. “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," Hua added.
This will be the third meeting between the two after previous get-togethers in 2010 and 2011, which had also attracted protests from China.
"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," noted Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, explaining that the U.S. still does not support Tibetan independence. "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,” she added.
More than 110 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest Beijing’s rule over the region, according to BBC. After Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising, the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, and has since then advocated autonomy over independence.
According to a Reuters report, China calls the Dalai Lama “a wolf in a sheep’s clothing,” and has raised doubts about his motives for a free Tibet.
The timing of China's warning closely follows U.S. criticism of China’s attempts to extend its sovereignty in disputed territories such as a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by Japan. U.S. officials have also questioned China's claim on most of the South China Sea. However, the economies of both nations are closely linked, with China being the United States' biggest foreign creditor, holding $1.28 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds as of July 31, according to Treasury Department data. The countries also have cooperated on geopolitical matters involving Iran and North Korea.
According to reports, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also scheduled to meet in the Netherlands next month for a nuclear security summit.
When asked if China would cancel the nuclear summit meeting if Obama met with the Tibetan leader, Hua reportedly said: “(If) the U.S. president wishes to meet any person, it's his own affair, but he cannot meet the Dalai. 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."