U.S. President Barack Obama will host exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House Friday, despite a stern warning from China.
The White House said late Thursday that Mr. Obama is meeting the Dalai Lama "in his capacity as a respected religious and cultural leader."
A statement said the U.S. supports the Dalai Lama\’s so-called "middle way" approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China.
China\’s foreign ministry quickly urged the U.S. to cancel the meeting. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned of serious diplomatic repercussions.
"The Dalai is a political exile who has long used the cloak of religion to engage in anti-China, separatist activities. The United States\’ arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai would be a gross interference in China\’s internal affairs and is a serious violation of the norms of international affairs. It will also seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations."
China issued similar threats against the U.S. following meetings between Obama and the Dalai Lama in 2010 and 2011.
The visits did not significantly impact U.S.-China relations then. And analysts such as John Powers, an Asian studies professor at the Australian National University, said it is unlikely to do so now.
"China goes through the same sort of routine about protesting regularly and interference in China\’s internal affairs and things keep going the same way. Nothing ever really happens."
Since February 2009, more than 126 people have self-immolated in traditionally Tibetan areas of China to protest Beijing\’s policy in their homeland.
Beijing says the Dalai Lama is responsible for the wave of self-immolations, which it views as terrorism.
While the Dalai Lama and the India-based Central Tibetan Administration are outspoken critics of China, they have discouraged the suicide protests.
The Britain-based Free Tibet said in a statement President Obama "deserves praise" for holding the meeting. It said China has "no right to tell the leaders of democratic countries that they cannot meet anyone, let along a spiritual leader and Nobel-laureate who is one of the world\’s leading advocates for peace."
Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of a campaign of religious and cultural persecution, as the country\’s majority Han ethnic group continues to move into historically Tibetan areas.
China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernization and an increased standard of living to Tibet.
Source: VOA and agencies