News / USA

Obama Meets Dalai Lama, Despite China's Warnings

President Barack Obama meets with the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama meets with the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Reuters
President Barack Obama met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Friday in a show of concern about China's human rights practices, and in spite of warnings from China that the visit would "seriously damage" ties with Washington.

The private meeting appeared to last about an hour, although the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was not seen by White House photographers as he entered or exited the complex.

Obama reiterated his support for Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions and human rights for Tibetans, the White House said in a statement.

"The president stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve longstanding differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans," the statement said.

Obama also said he does not support Tibetan independence from China and the Dalai Lama said he was not seeking it, the White House said.

It was the third time Obama had met the Dalai Lama, who the White House calls "an internationally respected religious and cultural leader." Previous meetings were in February 2010 and July 2011.

In what appeared to be a small concession to the Chinese, the visit was held in the White House Map Room, a historically important room but of less significance than the Oval Office, the president's inner sanctum.

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 violence.

China took control of Tibet in 1950. Human rights groups say China tramples on the religious, cultural and linguistic rights of Tibetans and enforces its rule using brutal methods.

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, and has long urged the Chinese government to hold talks with him, 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 ahead of the meeting.

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 meeting came 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.

As part of the strategy, Obama plans a week-long visit in late April with allies Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

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 meeting.

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.

The meeting with the Dalai Lama was announced with little fanfare the evening before it took place, but prompted a stern rebuke from the Chinese government.

"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 ahead of the meeting.

"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.

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."

Previous meetings between Obama and the Dalai Lama have not had serious repercussions.

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 Tsinghua University.

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.

The White House did not provide information about how or when the meeting was organized. The Dalai Lama had been speaking to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative organization, in Washington on Thursday.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs