Washington, June 16 (IANS) US President Barack Obama on Wednesday met the Dalai Lama privately at the White House, a session that sparked anger among Chinese officials who accuse the Tibetan spiritual leader of sponsoring a separatist movement.
It was Obama’s fourth meeting with the Dalai Lama, CNN reported.
Obama and the Dalai Lama met in the Map Room, on the ground floor of the White House residence.
Obama and previous presidents have avoided receiving the Dalai Lama in the Oval Office, a setting typically reserved for visiting heads of state or government leaders.
Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, said the meeting’s venue indicated that it was a personal greeting rather than formal bilateral talks.
A White House official said that ahead of the talks, the pair discussed a range of issues, including human rights, but declined to provide any further details about the meeting, which was not open to the media.
Later, the White House said the Dalai Lama extended condolences for Sunday’s terror attack in Orlando, but declined to provide further details of the discussion.
The Dalai Lama officially retired in 2011 from his political role as the leader of the exiled Tibetan government, but remains the head of Tibetan Buddhists.
On Tuesday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman sharply criticised any decision that could lend legitimacy to the Dalai Lama’s claims that Tibet should be independent from China.
“The US government made solemn commitments. It acknowledges that there is only one China, that Tibet is an inseparable part of China and will never recognise the so-called Tibetan government in exile,” the spokesman, Lu Kang, said during a press briefing.
Lu said the Dalai Lama is not a purely religious figure, but a political exile who has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the guise of religion.
Chinese state-run daily, the Global Times said the meeting showed Obama’s “mean side”.
“While Obama often says he welcomes China’s peaceful rise, his meetings with the Dalai Lama erode his sincerity and make him look more like he is helping the latter continue to make trouble with China,” the daily said in an editorial.