China against Obama-Dalai Lama meet
BEIJING: China on Wednesday again urged President Barack Obama not to hold a planned meeting with Dalai Lama, saying it would further hurt already strained bilateral relations.
It was the second successive day that China has spoken out against the meeting, and comes after Beijing said ties had been harmed by a U.S. announcement last week that it would sell arms to Taiwan.
"China resolutely opposes the visit by the Dalai Lama to the United States, and resolutely opposes the U.S. leader having contact with the Dalai Lama in any name or any form," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Wednesday.
The United States has already brushed aside previous warnings from China, and White House spokesman Bill Burton said Tuesday the meeting was still planned, although no date has been set.
"The president told ... China's leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama, and he intends to do so. The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the president will meet with him in that capacity," Burton said.
According to Chhime R. Chhoekyapa, the Dalai Lama's secretary, the Dalai Lama will be in Washington on Feb 17-18. He then will head for California and Florida before returning to India on Feb. 26. He would not give any other details.
Bilateral relations have already been strained by the U.S. announcement Friday that it planned to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan.
Beijing quickly suspended military exchanges with Washington and announced an unprecedented threat of sanctions against the U.S. companies involved in the sale.
China is very sensitive to any meetings that the India-based Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has with government leaders, calling them interference in its internal affairs.
On Tuesday, the official in charge of the office that deals with recent talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives warned there would be repercussions if Obama met the Dalai Lama.
Ma, responding to Burton's comments, said the United States should not allow its territory to be used by "Tibetan separatist forces."
"We urge the U.S. side to fully recognize the extreme sensitivity of the Tibet issue, and prudently and properly handle relevant issues so as to avoid causing further damage to China-US relations," Ma said in a statement posted on the ministry's Web site.
China maintains that Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say the region was functionally independent for much of its history.
Beijing demonizes the Dalai Lama and says he seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing independence for Tibet. The Dalai Lama has maintained for decades he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion under China's rule, not independence.
Tibetan areas have been tense in recent years, with the minority community complaining about restrictions on Buddhism, government propaganda campaigns against their revered Dalai Lama, and an influx of Chinese migrants that leave Tibetans feeling marginalized. Those feelings boiled over in deadly anti-Chinese riots in 2008 that shocked Beijing's leaders.