President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, much to China’s disappointment.
On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama had a closed-door meeting with President Obama in the Map Room of the White House, in which they reportedly discussed “human rights and climate change.”
“China is strongly displeased by, and opposed to, a senior U.S. official meeting with the Dalai Lama in disregard of China’s multiple representations,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. Hua goes on to state, “we urge the U.S. side to honor its commitment to recognizing Tibet as part of China and not supporting Tibet independence and take concrete measures to rectify mistakes and any harm done.”
Another foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang spoke on the matter, stating, “the 14th Dalai Lama often peddles his political position of splitting China internationally in the cloak of religion.” Continuing on the religious leader’s desire for Tibetan independence, Kang asserted that China has demanded “no country or government should give him space for such activities, and do things that 1.3 billion Chinese people will resolutely oppose.”
“The president encouraged meaningful and direct dialogue between the Dalai Lama and his representatives with Chinese authorities,” the White House said in a statement. “The president reiterated the longstanding U.S. position that Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China, and the United States does not support Tibetan Independence.”
Tibet has been under Chinese rule ever since it was invaded by communist China in 1950. The government claims Tibet has been a part of China for over 800 years, a claim many Tibetans reject vehemently, leading to numerous self-immolation protests against communism. The Chinese government has used Tibetans’ self-immolation as a means to accuse the Dalai Lama of being an extremist as many of these protesters are Buddhist monks. The government has gone so far as to claim the Dalai Lama incites violence and sympathizes with the Islamic State.
Zhu Weiqun, the Chinese Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee chairman, accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging violence in December, referring to self-immolation as, “a form of violent extremism.” The Dalai Lama has referred to acts of self-immolation as, “very, very complicated.” He goes onto say, “this a very sensitive issue … if such drastic action takes place with full anger, then negative. But more compassionate, more calm mind, then maybe sometimes less negative.”
The Chinese government drew a parallel between the Buddhist leader’s remarks on self-immolation and his remarks on the Islamic State. “One has to listen, to understand, to have respect for the other person, regardless. There is no other way,” the Dalai Lama proclaimed to Italian newspaper La Stampa, in regards to peace with the Islamic State. Zhu spoke to these comments labeling the Dalai Lama as an Islamic State sympathizer, ”by saying, ‘listen, understand, and respect’ them, it exposes in his very bones, his sympathy or endorsement of ISIS.”