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China summons US Ambassador over Dalai Lama's Washington visit

February 21, 2010

By Jane Macartney in Beijing
Times Online (UK)
February 19, 2010

London -- China’s first order of business this
morning was to issue a protest against President
Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, demanding
Washington take steps to improve ties strained by the encounter.

How Beijing calibrated that response has been
widely anticipated as a signal of whether its
anger at Washington’s show of respect to a man
China accuses of fomenting unrest in Tibet will
further damage already strained relations.

The language used by Foreign Ministry spokesman
Ma Zhaoxu was relatively restrained, stopping
short of warning of further harm to relations and
reflecting Beijing’s desire to limit the impact
while such serious issues as U.S. arms sales to Taiwan remain on the table.

Mr Ma said China expressed "strong
dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the
meeting. He said: "The Chinese side demands that
the U.S. side seriously consider China’s stance,
immediately adopt measures to wipe out the
baneful impact and stop conniving and supporting
anti-China separatist forces that seek Tibet independence."

To underscore Beijing’s displeasure, Deputy
Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned U.S.
Ambassador Jon Huntsman and "lodged solemn representations."

However, China avoided reference to earlier
statements in which it said such a meeting would
damage relations. Its response will have been
decided to some extent by President Obama’s
low-key welcome to the Tibetan god-king, who has
lived in exile in India since an abortive
uprising against Beijing in 1951 and who
campaigns for greater autonomy for his people.

China has branded the Nobel peace prize winner as
a "splittist" seeking to remove Tibet from
Chinese rule and objects strongly to contacts
between him and international leaders.

Obama told the Dalai Lama that he backed the
preservation of Tibet’s culture and supported
human rights for its people. He also encouraged
talks between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.

However, the meeting was low-key -- in
consideration of China’s objections. It took
place in the White House’s Map Room, a venue for
private talks, and Obama made no public comments
or allowed any welcome fanfare. A single photo
was issued of the two leaders sitting down over tea.

That compared with the Dalai Lama’s last
reception by a U.S. president in 2007, when
George W. Bush presented him with the
Congressional Medal of Honour. Such meetings have
become standard fare since 1991, but the
choreography is always delicate and carefully
planned because of China’s sensitivities.

After the meeting, the Dalai Lama chided Beijing
for taking a "childish" and "limited" approach to
Tibet’s quest for Tibetan autonomy. His envoy,
Lodi Gyari, who heads sporadic talks with
Beijing, said the session would offer
encouragement to Tibetans who feel marginalised in China.
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