China on Monday opposed a potential upcoming meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama after the White House announced that the president would be present at an event in Washington, D.C., that will also be attended by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Obama is scheduled to address a National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5.
China warned the U.S. that it does not approve of any country meeting with the 79-year-old, who is accused by Beijing of fanning separatist sentiments in Tibet, even though the White House has not mentioned any specific meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama. However, Obama and the Tibetan leader -- both Nobel Peace Prize laureates -- have met thrice on separate occasions in the past despite Beijing's objections.
"China is opposed to any nation or government using the Tibet issue to interfere in China's domestic affairs, and opposed to any country's leader meeting with the Dalai Lama in any manner," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a news briefing, according to Reuters. "China hopes the U.S. side abides by its promises on the Tibet issue, and proceeds to appropriately handle the issue on the basis of the overall condition of bilateral relations."
On Saturday, Patrick Ventrell, the White House's deputy spokesman, had reportedly said: "[President Obama has] a great relationship with the Dalai Lama. . . . The President is a strong supporter of the Dalai Lama's teachings and preserving Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions."
Last February, Obama’s third meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C., angered Beijing, which has accused the monk, who has been exiled from the region since 1959, of trying to separate Tibet from China.
“Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama’s attempt to split Tibet from China,” an op-ed in the China Daily, the country’s official media, said Monday. “Tibet is an inseparable part of China,” it continued. “The Dalai Lama’s flight from China’s Tibet in 1959 was because of his failed attempt to maintain the serfdom in the region, under which the majority of Tibetans were slaves leading a life of unimaginable misery.”
The Dalai Lama has reportedly been branded a “wolf in sheep's clothing” by Beijing, but has denied supporting violence and says he only wants autonomy for Tibet.