China on Saturday said it had summoned a top American diplomat to express its “strong indignation” over Friday’s meeting between President Barack Obama and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Washington.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui on Friday night summoned the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy here, Daniel Kritenbrink, and lodged “solemn representations,” the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Mr. Zhang told him the meeting “seriously undermined” relations and “seriously violated the U.S. commitment of not supporting Tibet independence.” He said the Tibetan issue was “the domestic affair of China” and the U.S. “bears no right to interfere.”
China’s expectedly angry response echoed its similar opposition to Mr. Obama’s previous two meetings with the Dalai Lama, in 2010 and 2011. China has often exerted pressure on foreign leaders and warned them that bilateral ties, and even trade relations, could suffer if they hosted the Dalai Lama.
Mr. Obama first hosted the Dalai Lama in February 2010. On that occasion, the White House appeared to attempt to assuage China’s anger by playing down the meeting, which took place not in the official and symbolic Oval Office but in the Map room, and away from the glare of the cameras.
Mr. Obama's second meeting with the Dalai Lama came more than a year later, in July 2011, amid perceptions that the U.S., which was deepening engagement and seeking Chinese cooperation on a range of issues from trade to North Korea, was giving less weight to Tibet-related issues than in the past.
Friday’s meeting also took place in the Map room, with the White House again appearing to tone down the affair. The Dalai Lama was not seen entering or leaving the White House by official photographers.
Mr. Obama reiterated that the U.S. did not support Tibetan independence, but affirmed his support for Tibet’s religious, cultural and linguistic identity and for ensuring Tibetans’ human rights. He pointed out that the Dalai Lama himself had sought genuine autonomy for Tibetans, and not independence, in his “middle way” approach.
China, however, repeated its accusations that the Dalai Lama was a “splittist.”
The Foreign Ministry in a statement described the exiled spiritual leader as “a political exile who has long engaged in anti-China secessionist activities in the name of religion.”
A commentary by the official Xinhua news agency criticised the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach as “nothing but smoke and mirrors, camouflage and deceit.”