From AFP – China on Tuesday warned U.S. President Barack Obama against meeting the Dalai Lama, saying it would “seriously undermine” Sino-US ties — the latest salvo in an escalating row between the two powers.
Beijing also said no progress had been made in the latest round of talks between Chinese officials and envoys of the Buddhist monk, saying the two sides remain “sharply divided” on the future of the Himalayan region.
The comments came after the first negotiations between the two sides in more than a year, which wrapped up at the weekend. The envoys of the Dalai Lama returned to their exile base in India on Monday.
The exiled monk, whom China accuses of seeking independence for his homeland, is due in the United States this month for a visit that includes a stop in Washington, but a meeting with Obama has not been announced.
Such a meeting would “seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-US relations,” Zhu Weiqun, executive vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party body that handles contact with the Dalai Lama, told a news conference.
“If the US leader chooses to meet with the Dalai Lama at this time, it will certainly threaten trust and cooperation between China and the United States,” Zhu said.
“We oppose any attempt by foreign forces to interfere in China’s internal affairs using the Dalai Lama as an excuse,” he added.
The warning added to mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing, with relations already badly strained over US arms sales to Taiwan, Google’s threat to leave China, and a host of trade and currency disputes.
Obama was roundly criticised at home for avoiding a meeting with the Dalai Lama ahead of the US leader’s maiden trip to China in November.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of separatism, although the monk says he is only seeking greater autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.
Secretive talks between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys — the ninth round since the dialogue began in 2002 — again ended with no significant progress made, the Chinese official said.
“As in previous rounds of negotiations, the positions of the two sides are sharply divided,” said Zhu, executive vice minister of the United Front Work Department.
He said the talks could not move forward if the Dalai Lama — whom he branded a “troublemaker” — “continues to devote himself to anti-China propaganda and sabotage on the international stage”.
The Tibetan envoys, who flew to China on January 25, held meetings with Chinese officials first in the central province of Hunan and then in Beijing at the weekend, the Dalai Lama’s senior secretary Chhime Chhoekyapa told AFP.
The Dalai Lama, 75, who has warned Tibetan culture is in danger of being extinguished, has sought some degree of autonomy for the region since he fled his homeland after a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule.
That came nine years after Chinese troops were sent to take control of the region.
Since the last round of talks in November 2008, China has maintained a tough crackdown in Tibet launched following a wave of anti-Chinese unrest that erupted in March of that year and which Beijing blamed on the Dalai Lama.
Several people have reportedly been executed for their roles in the violence, and earlier this month China named a military veteran, Padma Choling, as Tibet’s new governor.