President Bush's meeting this week with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has prompted harsh words from China's government. Chinese officials criticized the United States for allowing the Buddhist leader to pay a 20-day visit.
Any time the Dalai Lama visits a foreign country, it starts alarm bells ringing in Beijing, where officials fear such visits might encourage separatist sentiment in Tibet.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan reacted to the Dalai Lama's meeting with President Bush with a warning not to interfere in China's internal affairs.
Mr. Kong said China firmly opposes the U.S. decision to allow the Dalai Lama to visit the United States, and he said Chinese officials have let the U.S. government know this.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled news briefing, the Chinese official urged Washington to honor previous commitments by which the United States has recognized Tibet as a part of China. He said China regards the Dalai Lama not purely as a religious leader, but as a political exile who is pushing for Tibet's independence.
The Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner has been heading a government in exile since 1959 in neighboring India, where he fled after Tibetans unsuccessfully rebelled against Chinese rule.
China invaded Tibet in 1951, and has since been working to consolidate its hold on the region by populating it with Han Chinese, China's main ethnic group. Completion of the first rail link between Beijing and the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, is expected to be completed by 2007.
According to a White House spokesman, the Dalai Lama and Mr. Bush discussed human rights in Tibet and the need to preserve Tibetan culture. The spokesman quoted Mr. Bush as saying he would seek to encourage continued dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama.
Both the Dalai Lama and the United States government have said they want more autonomy for Tibet, but neither is calling for Tibetan independence.