China anger at Dalai Lama-Obama meeting

20 February 2010 05:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


A visit by the Dalai Lama to Washington has "seriously undermined" relations between the US and China, Beijing says. It released a strongly worded statement in response to US President Barack Obama's meeting with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

China had earlier expressed "strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the meeting with a man they see as a separatist. It said the US should "take effective steps to eradicate the malign effects". Washington had kept the Dalai Lama's meeting low-key to emphasis it was private rather than political.

Hurt feelings

Despite that,
China's Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned ambassador Jon Huntsman to lodge a "solemn representation". The talks were held in the White House Map Room instead of the Oval Office "The behaviour of the US side seriously interferes in China's internal politics and seriously hurts the national feelings of the Chinese people," a ministry statement said.

China never reacts well to these meetings, which have been taking place for nearly two decades, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing. But this time it has expressed its dissatisfaction in stronger terms than ever before.

The meetings highlight
Beijing's terrible human rights record, and remind the world that many Tibetans are deeply unhappy with China's heavy-handed rule in Tibet, our correspondent adds. The White House meeting was held amid recent tensions, mainly over a US arms sale to Taiwan and allegations of Chinese cyber-spying.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement that the meeting between President Obama and the exiled Tibetan leader "violated the
US government's repeated acceptance that Tibet is a part of China and it does not support Tibetan independence". He added: "Use concrete actions to promote the healthy and stable development of Sino-US relations."

During the low-key meeting, President Obama expressed his "strong support" for Tibetan rights, his spokesman said. The closed talks were held at the White House's Map Room instead of the more official Oval Office, in an attempt to signal to
China that it was a private, not a political meeting.

Mr Obama praised the Dalai Lama's commitment to non-violence and "his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government", the spokesman said. The Dalai Lama told reporters outside the White House that he expressed to the president his admiration for the US as a "champion of democracy, freedom, human values" and creativity.

'Deteriorating relations'

The White House had defended the decision to receive the Dalai Lama, saying he was "an internationally respected religious leader". On the streets of Beijing, residents criticised the US to the BBC.

Zhong An Huan, a university lecturer, said China's attitude on the issue was "clear and resolute". "We have already warned [the US] and if they continue in this way, they will have to bear the consequences," he said. Jin Canrong, from the School of International Studies at Renmin University, said the political atmosphere would get worse.

"For the short term, I think the political atmosphere will deteriorate to some extent and some kind of dialogue will be suspended and Chinese willingness to cooperate on international issues will be weakened," he said. China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950 but has long claimed it as its own, considers the Dalai Lama a separatist. Beijing tries to isolate the spiritual leader by asking foreign leaders not to see him.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and has since been living in India. The Dalai Lama has met every sitting US president since 1991, with each visit drawing Chinese ire. But George W Bush's meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2007 was the first time a sitting US president had appeared in public with the exiled Tibetan leader.

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