Obama Meets Dalai Lama Despite China's Objection

Jul 16, 2011

President Obama is meeting with the Dalai Lama — a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate — and China isn't happy.

The Tibetan spiritual leader has been in Washington, D.C., for an 11-day Buddhist ritual. Thousands of expatriate Tibetans joined a 76th birthday celebration Wednesday for the Dalai Lama, who's just relinquished leadership of Tibet's government-in-exile.

A Chinese crackdown led the Dalai Lama to flee into exile in India in 1959. China says he's welcome to return if he drops his separatist activities, accepts Tibet as an inalienable part of China and recognizes Taiwan as a province of China.

Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, had urged Obama to cancel the meeting to avoid damaging Sino-U.S. relations. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, he said the Tibetan issue concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and China was firmly opposed to the meeting. Hong said China had lodged diplomatic complaints in Beijing and Washington over the issue.

The White House said the private meeting underscores the president's strong support for preserving Tibet's culture and protecting human rights.

Obama last met the Dalai Lama in February 2010.

NPR's Louisa Lim contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.

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