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Obama meets Dalai Lama despite criticism from China

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-21

US President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, in a move that drew harsh criticism from China.

Obama told the Dalai Lama on Friday that he supported human rights and religious freedom for Tibetans and urged direct dialogue with China to resolve longstanding differences, the White House said.

“The president reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China,” the White House said in a statement.

The meeting was held in the Map Room on the ground floor of the president's residence instead of the Oval Office, which Obama usually uses to meet foreign leaders and visiting dignitaries.

The Chinese government believes that the Dalai Lama is a separatist seeking to establish an independent Tibet. The spiritual leader has been living in exile ever since 1959.

Earlier, China’s Foreign Ministry urged that the Dalai Lama’s planned visit be cancelled, warning that it threatened bilateral ties with the United States.

"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," Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.

"It will seriously damage Sino-US relations. We urge the United States to take seriously China's concerns, immediately cancel plans for the US leader to meet the Dalai, do not facilitate and provide a platform for Dalai's anti-China separatist activities in the United States," she said.

US position on Tibet

While the United States recognises Tibet as a part of China, it also supports the Dalai Lama’s efforts for greater autonomy.

On Thursday, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden repeated the US government’s position on the issue.

"We do not support Tibetan independence," she said.

More than 120 Tibetans have self-immolated over the past few years in protest against what they see as oppression by China’s government.

Obama last sat down with the Dalai Lama in 2011, in a meeting that was also condemned by China.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-21

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