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China Formally Protests Obama Meeting With Dalai Lama

President Barack Obama meets with Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House, July 16, 2011
President Barack Obama meets with Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House, July 16, 2011

China lodged a formal protest Sunday with the U.S. embassy in Beijing over a meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader seen by Beijing as seeking independence for his homeland.

In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry characterized Saturday's meeting in Washington as an act "that has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs" and "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." It also demanded that Washington stop supporting "anti-China separatist forces" seeking Tibetan independence. China's ambassador to Washington also protested the meeting.

VOA spoke with the first elected Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, known as the Kalon Tripa. Katri Samdhong Rinpoche, who leaves office next month, says the political retirement of the Dalai Lama and a new Kalon Tripa will not likely change negotiations with China.

A U.S. statement Saturday after the closed-door White House meeting said the president spoke of the need for direct talks between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences over the status of Tibet. Obama also underscored U.S. policy that Tibet is a part of China.

China routinely accuses the Dalai Lama of advocating for Tibetan secession.

The Nobel laureate has repeatedly said he is seeking dialogue with Chinese officials aimed at establishing Tibetan autonomy.

The White House announced the meeting on Friday, as the Dalai Lama wrapped up a visit to Washington for an 11-day spiritual retreat known as the Kalachakra ritual. He also met with State Department officials and political leaders during his stay, despite formally retiring from politics earlier this year.

Ahead of the president's decision to hold the meeting, the Dalai Lama told VOA he would be pleased with the opportunity for such a meeting. But he said his main reason for being in the United States was to facilitate Buddhist teachings.