BEIJING – China lashed out Tuesday at President Bush’s White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, arguing that it would seriously damage relations between the two nations, and called on the U.S. to cancel plans to honor the famous Tibetan figure with a Congressional Gold Medal.
“We solemnly demand that the U.S. cancel the extremely wrong arrangements,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters before the meeting. “It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China’s internal affairs.”
The Dalai Lama, recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, has been based in India since fleeing his homeland during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. China has condemned him as a “splittist” intent on undermining Chinese sovereignty by working for the independence of Tibet. The Dalai Lama says he is only seeking to expand autonomy, not establish a separate state.
The White House dismissed China’s concerns, saying the president has had private meetings with many religious leaders, including the pope.
In recognition of China’s objections, however, the Bush administration did not release photographs of Tuesday’s White House meeting: “We in no way want to stir the pot and make China feel that we are, you know, poking a stick in their eye,” said press secretary Dana Perino.
China has sought for decades to squash any international recognition of the Dalai Lama, but the spiritual leader, who is 72, remains popular in Tibet.
Beijing has faced recent setbacks in its bid to subdue the Dalai Lama’s profile. In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Nobel laureate. In June, the Dalai Lama met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Canada granted him honorary citizenship last year.