China Warns U.S. on Meeting With Dalai Lama
The New York Times
By EDWARD WONG
Published: February 2, 2010
BEIJING — A senior Chinese official strongly warned President Obama on Tuesday against meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans, saying it would damage relations between China and the United States.
The official, Zhu Weiqun, said any country would suffer consequences if its leaders met with the Dalai Lama, whom China considers to be a dangerous separatist. Mr. Zhu did not elaborate on what actions China could take.
White House officials have said that Mr. Obama plans to meet with the Dalai Lama early this year. Last autumn, when the Dalai Lama visited the United States, Mr. Obama declined to meet with him in order to avoid angering China before Mr. Obama’s first trip to Beijing, which took place in November.
Both Mr. Obama and the Dalai Lama are Nobel Peace laureates.
Mr. Zhu, who is the executive vice director of the United Front Work Department, the arm of the Chinese Communist Party that oversees ethnic policy, made his remarks at a morning news conference, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. The purpose of the conference was to give details on recent negotiations between the Chinese government and envoys of the Dalai Lama, in which China rejected demands for greater Tibetan autonomy.
Any move by United States leaders to meet the Dalai Lama will “harm others but bring no profit to itself either,” Mr. Zhu said.
Despite Mr. Obama’s earlier overtures to Beijing, tensions between the United States and China have been on the rise.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently chastised China in a speech she gave in which she decried Internet censorship. Last Friday, the United States announced sales of $6.4 billion of arms to Taiwan, the self-governing, democratic island that China says is a rebel province. In response, China said it would break off military-to-military ties with the United States and bring sanctions against the American companies that make the arms.
China usually criticizes any prominent figure who meets with the Dalai Lama.
In 2007, despite furious objections from China, President George W. Bush met privately with the Dalai Lama in Washington in 2007 and was present at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in which Congress awarded the exiled Tibetan leader its highest civilian honor. China called the event a “farce.”
A decade earlier, President Clinton informally greeted the Dalai Lama at the White House and said he would urge China to open talks with him, but the two leaders did not meet formally.
In late 2008, China protested a meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. It hinted that it would bring economic sanctions against France, but those never materialized.
China considers sovereignty issues like the status of Tibet and Taiwan to be what officials call the nation’s “core interests.” Few things anger the Chinese government more than the intervention of foreign countries in these issues. Tibet has always been a thorny foreign policy issue for the Communist Party but became even more so after a widespread uprising exploded across Tibetan regions of western China in March 2008.
The Dalai Lama, 74, lives in India and says he wants only “genuine autonomy” for Tibet, not independence.
The latest meeting between his envoys and Chinese officials ended over the weekend. It was the ninth round of talks since 2002 between China and the Dalai Lama, and Chinese officials restated their rejection of the Dalai Lama’s call for greater autonomy for the Tibetans.
Mr. Zhu said at the news conference on Tuesday that the Dalai Lama was not a legal representative of the 6 million Tibetans in China and that China would discuss with the envoys only the status of the Dalai Lama, not the future of Tibet.
“They are only the Dalai Lama’s private representatives,” he said, “so they can only talk about the prospect of the Dalai Lama; at most, the prospects of a small party around him.