By Austin Ramzy for the New York Times
A Chinese official warned on Wednesday that a meeting scheduled to take place in Washington between President Obama and the Dalai Lama would “undermine mutual trust and cooperation” between the two countries.
Mr. Obama planned to meet with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader at the White House on Wednesday morning.
Beijing routinely pressures foreign leaders not to meet the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of seeking Tibet’s independence from China. The Dalai Lama, however, says he merely wants to protect Tibetans and their homeland’s identity.
“Tibet affairs are part of China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday. He accused the Dalai Lama of “long conducting anti-China splittist activities on the world stage under the cloak of religion.”
Foreign leaders have increasingly declined to meet with the Dalai Lama, fearing retaliation from Beijing. China protested and canceled high-level visits to Britain after Prime Minister David Cameron met with him in 2012. When the Dalai Lama visited Britain again three years later, Mr. Cameron avoided him, something the Tibetan spiritual leader suggested was because of concerns about trade.
United States officials have continued to meet with the Dalai Lama, though the White House avoids making such exchanges into high-profile affairs. Mr. Obama has met the Dalai Lama on multiple occasions during his administration, most recently in 2014. In 2015, both men attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, although they did not meet individually.
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