US President Obama Meets with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

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Washington, DC – US President Barack Obama today (Feb. 21) welcomed the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to the White House, despite China demanding hours before the meeting its immediate cancellation, warning that the unjustified interference in its domestic affairs would cause “great damage” to bilateral ties.

In a readout of the meeting, which was not open to the press, the White House said, “The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama,” and “reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.”

Reiterating the US position that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China and that the United States does not support Tibet independence, President Obama stressed that he “encourages direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans.”

The Dalai Lama echoed the Obama sentiments stating that he was not seeking independence for Tibet and hoped that “dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume.” The US President commended the Dalai Lama’s commitment to peace and nonviolence and expressed support for the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach.

In a statement released before the meeting, Caitlin Hayden, the US National Security Council Spokesperson from the White House explained, “The United States supports the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China. The United States recognizes Tibet to be a part of the People’s Republic of China and we do not support Tibetan independence.”

“The United States strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China. We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China,” stated Hayden, adding, “We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions.”

Earlier hours before the meeting at the White House, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying issued a statement expressing great concern about the meeting and urging, “the United States to take China’s concerns seriously and not to facilitate or offer occasion for the Dalai Lama to conduct anti-China secessionist moves.”

China has long opposed foreign dignitaries meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959.

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