China opposes Obama aides meeting with Dalai Lama

China said on Tuesday it "firmly opposed" any meetings between foreign officials and the Dalai Lama, after top aides to US President Barack Obama met the Tibetan spiritual leader in India. Skip related content

"China's position on Tibet-related issues is very clear. We are firmly opposed to any foreign official meeting with the Dalai Lama," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

"The US side is very clear about China's position."

Obama has pledged support for the Dalai Lama but will not meet him during his upcoming visit to Washington, taking his own "Middle Way" and outraging some Tibet activists.

A White House delegation including Valerie Jarrett, Obama's close Chicago friend and advisor, met Monday with Tibet's spiritual leader in his home in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamshala.

Mike Hammer, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said that Jarrett conveyed Obama's "respect" for the Nobel Peace laureate who has spent 50 years in exile.

"Tibetan religion and culture have made significant contributions to the world and the president wished Ms. Jarrett through her visit to honor them," Hammer said.

He said the Dalai Lama told the delegation of his pacifist "Middle Way" approach of seeking a future for Tibet within China, which sent troops into the Himalayan territory in 1950.

"We think his views deserve our attention and that of the Chinese government," Hammer said.

He did not comment on whether Obama would meet with the Dalai Lama when he visits Washington next month on his latest tour of North America.

But the Dalai Lama, in a statement released by his office, said that he "looks forward to meeting with President Obama after (Obama's) visit to China," which is not scheduled until November.

China -- now the biggest holder of the ballooning US debt -- has been using its growing global clout to pressure nations not to meet with the Buddhist leader, accusing him of being a separatist.

Some activists voiced dismay at the symbolism of the Dalai Lama visiting Washington without meeting Obama. The Tibetan spiritual leader has met with every US president since then-president George H. W. Bush in 1991.

"If Obama somehow shrugs off this meeting, it gives a very clear indication to China that the US is bending down," said Tsering Palden, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress activist group's branch in New York.

"It really gives the wrong signal. It says the US is not ready to stand up to China," he said.

"Tibetans have been waiting so much for this meeting, so that President Obama can take the message of Tibetans to China," he said.

But Kate Saunders, spokeswoman for the International Campaign for Tibet, which works closely with the Dalai Lama, said Obama would likely meet the Tibetan leader before the end of the year.

She said Obama, who met with the Dalai Lama as a senator, and Dharamshala made a "strategic" decision to wait until after Obama's first presidential trip to Beijing.

She said that the dispatch of the high-level delegation to Dharamshala -- which also included Maria Otero, the State Department's Tibet pointwoman -- was itself a signal to China.

"We know that President Obama wants to focus on real change and making real progress on the Tibet issue," Otero said.

"So I think that he sees this as a strategic opportunity to get some movement on the Tibet issue," she said.

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