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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

China summons U.S. ambassador over Dalai Lama meeting

February 21, 2010

CNN
February 19, 2010

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
China expresses its "strong dissatisfaction" over
Dalai Lama meeting to U.S. ambassador
Dalai Lama met with U.S. President Barack Obama a
day earlier at the White House
China appealed for U.S. to "stop conniving and
supporting anti-China separatist forces"
Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist
who wishes to sever Tibet from China

Beijing, China (CNN) -- China summoned the U.S.
ambassador on Friday to express its "strong
dissatisfaction" over the Dalai Lama's meeting
with U.S. President Barack Obama a day earlier.

China didn't disclose what was discussed during
the session with Ambassador Jon Huntsman at the
Foreign Ministry. But Beijing had warned that a
meeting between the president and the exiled
Tibetan spiritual leader would damage its ties with Washington.

"The Chinese side expresses strong
dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this
meeting," a spokesman for China's Foreign
Ministry said in a statement after Thursday's meeting at the White House.

"China demands the U.S. seriously consider
China's stance, immediately adopt measures to
wipe out the adverse impact, [and] stop conniving
and supporting anti-China separatist forces."

The U.S. Embassy didn't characterize Friday's
meeting, but it provided the message Huntsman
delivered to Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai.

"Now is the time to move forward and cooperate in
ways that benefit our two counties, the region
and the world," Huntsman said, according to the U.S. Embassy.

The meeting has the potential to further
complicate Sino-U.S. tensions, which have been rising in recent months.

The Dalai Lama has said he favors genuine
autonomy for Tibetans, not independence for
Tibet. Beijing regards the Nobel Peace Prize
laureate as a separatist who wishes to sever Tibet from China.

Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama "runs against
the repeated commitments by the U.S. government
that the U.S. recognizes Tibet as part of China
and gives no support to 'Tibet independence',"
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

During the meeting, Obama stressed his "strong
support for the preservation of Tibet's unique
religious, cultural and linguistic identity, and
the protection of human rights for Tibetans,"
according to a White House statement.

The president praised the Dalai Lama's
"commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of
dialogue with the Chinese government," the
statement added. He also stressed the importance
of having both sides "engage in direct dialogue
to resolve differences, and was pleased to hear
about the recent resumption of talks," it noted.

The Dalai Lama, while acknowledging that he
raised concerns about Tibet during the meeting,
did not provide further specifics about his home
region's political situation while addressing reporters.

He said he admired America as a "champion of
democracy and ... freedom," and cited the need to
promote "religious harmony" and "human value."

He also met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama
could "seriously undermine the Sino-U.S.
political relations," Zhu Weiqun, a senior
Communist Party leader in charge of ethnic and
religious affairs, warned recently.

"We will take corresponding action to make
relevant countries see their mistakes."

On Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman
said the meeting "grossly violated the norms
governing ... international relations."

Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama when the
spiritual leader visited Washington last fall,
making it the first time since 1991 that such a
meeting did not occur. Ahead of a summit with
Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama persuaded
Tibetan representatives back then to postpone the meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Thursday's encounter took place against the
backdrop of several contentious issues already
threatening to sour the relationship between
America and China, including trade disputes, a
recent U.S. arm sales deal for Taiwan -- which
China considers an illegitimate breakaway
province -- and a censorship row over Internet search engine Google Inc.

The meeting is "another event in the recent, one
has to say, downward spiral in U.S.-China
relations," said China scholar David Shambaugh.

It's also troublesome for the Chinese for one
other important reason, Shambaugh said.

"He could have met him as a spiritual leader in a
neutral place like a church," he said. But
receiving him in the White House "is a political
act. And that is going to irritate China very much."

The meeting did not take place in the formal,
official setting of the Oval Office. It was
instead held in the White House Map Room, which
is considered part of the presidential residence.
The choice of settings was considered by many
observers to be a sign of Washington's
acknowledgment of Beijing's political sensitivities.

Some analysts said the Chinese government could
retaliate by cutting off political exchanges as
they did after the Dalai Lama met with the heads
of state of France and Germany. And Hu could turn
down an invitation to visit Washington in April.

Neither China nor the United States can afford
strained relations, said Douglas Paal, a diplomat
and investment banker who has served as a presidential adviser on China.

"We both need each other," he said. "We need each
other for a number of international security
issues -- to deal with the global climate crisis,
to deal with the global financial crisis."

China is the largest growing export market for
U.S. companies, Paal said, expanding by 65 percent last year alone.

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think that
Tibet should be an independent country, according
to a new national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll.

But the survey, released Thursday, also indicates
that most Americans think it is more important to
maintain good relations with China than to take a stand on Tibet.
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