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February 1, 2015

Obama risks China’s anger over first public appearance with Dalai Lama

World

 
February 1, 2015

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama are set to appear in public together for the first time, in a move sure to anger Beijing.
While the president and the Tibetan spiritual leader could have a chance encounter at the National Prayer Breakfast next Thursday in Washington, the White House played down any official engagement between the two.
Mr Obama has met three times with the Dalai Lama. In each case, the meetings prompted objections from the Chinese government, which has branded the Dalai Lama an anti-Chinese separatist.
After the most recent meeting last February, China accused the US of meddling in its affairs. Sensitive to those objections, the White House made sure the meeting was not portrayed as a conference between two heads of state and closed the session to journalists.
A congressional aide said the Tibetan spiritual leader had confirmed his attendance. Asked if there was any plan for a private meeting with the Dalai Lama, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said: “As he has done in the past, the president will see many religious leaders at the event, but we don’t have any specific meeting with the Dalai Lama to announce.”
White House deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the president had “a great relationship with the Dalai Lama.”
“They have met three times, including just last February. The President is a strong supporter of the Dalai Lama´s teachings and preserving Tibet´s unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions.”
Obama held low-key talks with the Dalai Lama in Washington last February and the meeting greatly angered Beijing, which had warned that it would damage ties. Asked to comment on next week’s plans, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said Tibet-related issues were “domestic affairs of China.”
“The 14th Dalai Lama is a political exile, and China is opposed to leaders of any countries meeting him in any form,” he said. Beijing calls

the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet.
The Dalai Lama says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating independence or violence. Human rights activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which it has ruled strictly since People´s Liberation Army troops “peacefully liberated” the region in 1950.
China rejects such criticism, saying its rule ended serfdom in Tibet and brought development to a backward, poverty-stricken region.