Saturday 17 March 2018

China protest over Dalai Lama in US

The Dalai Lama is regarded in Beijing as a political exile working to overthrow Chinese rule in Tibet
The Dalai Lama is regarded in Beijing as a political exile working to overthrow Chinese rule in Tibet

China has protested over the Dalai Lama's presence at a public event attended by US president Barack Obama, saying America was exploiting the issue of Tibet for political purposes.

The Dalai Lama attended the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday in Washington, where he was welcomed by Mr Obama as a "good friend".

It was the first time the president and the Tibetan Buddhist leader had attended the same public event.

Beijing foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Tibetan spiritual leader is regarded as a political exile working to overthrow Chinese rule over the Himalayan region under the cloak of religion.

China opposes any country providing him with a platform to further his agenda.

The spokesman said Tibet was a core national interest over which China would make no compromises.

Mr Hong said: "We oppose any other country's decision to allow Dalai to visit, and we oppose any country's interference in China's internal politics by exploiting the Tibet issue.

"We have repeatedly pointed out that the Tibet issue concerns China's core interest and national feelings. We oppose any other country's decision to provide platforms for Dalai's visit, and we oppose any foreign leaders' meeting with Dalai."

Chinese officials routinely refer to the 79-year-old Nobel Peace Prize recipient as "Dalai" as a way of undercutting his religious legitimacy. China maintains that Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries while many Tibetans say they were effectively an independent country for most of that time.

At the meeting Mr Obama pressed his hands together in a prayer-like position and bowed his head toward him before giving him a wave and a broad smile.

China rejects the Dalai Lama's quest for greater Tibetan autonomy from Beijing as a covert bid for independence, and pressure from Beijing severely limits where he can visit and which leaders he can meet. Mr Obama's three previous meetings with the Dalai Lama have been private because of the sensitivity of the situation.

But in a show of White House support for the Dalai Lama, he sat at a table with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Actor Richard Gere, a friend and follower of the Dalai Lama, was nearby. Outside, hundreds of demonstrators banged drums and waved Tibetan flags under a heavy police presence.

The Dalai Lama fled to exile in India after a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. Mr Obama called him "a powerful example of what it means to practise compassion and who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings".

Although Mr Hong did not threaten any direct retribution, China's official Xinhua News Agency warned in an editorial that "any possible meeting or encounter between the two is sure to have negative consequences".

"Chumming with a secessionist is playing with fire, which severely harms the mutual trust between China and the United States, and downgrades Obama's credit as a national leader for breaking his commitments to China on the Tibet issue," Xinhua writer Tian Dongdong wrote.

China has frequently imposed diplomatic and economic punishments on countries whose leaders meet the Dalai Lama. Beijing suspended high-level diplomatic contact with Britain for 14 months after Prime Minister David Cameron met with him in May 2012.

In 2008 China cancelled a major annual summit with the European Union after then French president Nicholas Sarkozy, whose nation held the rotating EU presidency, met the Dalai Lama in Poland. That also put a deep chill in China-French relations, which recovered only after commitments were made not to meet the Dalai Lama again, which was also the case with Britain.

European countries are seen as especially susceptible to Chinese pressure because of their reliance on exports to the world's second-largest economy.

Press Association

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