The Chinese government is criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama for holding a 45-minute meeting with the Dalai Lama, a move purported to be seriously damaging to diplomatic relations.
"This action is a gross interference in China's internal affairs, hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and damages Sino-U.S. relations," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in statement, Al-Jazeera reported. "The Dalai Lama has for a long time used the banner of religion to engage in anti-China splittist activities."
China, which considers the Dalai Lama a separatist who supports violence to establish an independent Tibet, quickly summoned American diplomat Robert Wang from the U.S. embassy in Beijing to make an official complaint, the report states.
"We demand the United States conscientiously handle China's principled and just stance, immediately take steps to remove the baneful impact, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and stop abetting in and supporting 'Tibet independence' anti-China splittist forces," Al-Jazeera reports.
The Dalai Lama, who had been in Washington for a 10-day Buddhist ritual, met with Mr. Obama July 16. During the meeting they discussed the importance of protecting the human rights of Tibetans – including Tibet's religious, cultural and linguistic traditions – while restating U.S. policy citing the American state does not support Tibetan independence, a goal the Dalai Lama also does not seek, the Globe and Mail reported.
The Globe and Mail report instead notes the Dalai Lama's desire for a higher level of political autonomy for Tibet under the Chinese umbrella. Contrarily, he is cast as a separatist by the Chinese, accusations the Buddhist leader denies.
The Dalai Lama spoke positively of his meeting with President Obama.
"Firstly we developed a very close sort of feeling for each other," the Dalai Lama said in a statement forwarded by Kate Saunders from the International Campaign for Tibet. "So naturally he shows genuine concern about suffering in Tibet and other places."
Despite early criticisms from Chinese diplomats, Obama went ahead with the meeting but closed it off to reporters and photographers. The meeting itself comes 10 days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, the Toronto Star reports.
The American president had drawn criticism from pro-Tibetan activists for delaying his extension of an invitation to the Tibetan leader, whom he had not met with since Feb. 2010.