China furious, demands U.S. cancel honor to Dalai Lama
China lashed out Tuesday at President Bush's White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, arguing that it would seriously damage relations between...
Los Angeles Times
BEIJING — China lashed out Tuesday at President Bush's White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, arguing that it would seriously damage relations between the two nations, and called on the U.S. to cancel plans to honor the famous Tibetan figure with a Congressional Gold Medal.
"We solemnly demand that the U.S. cancel the extremely wrong arrangements," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters before the meeting. "It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China's internal affairs."
The Dalai Lama, recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, has been based in India since fleeing his homeland during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. China has condemned him as a "splittist" intent on undermining Chinese sovereignty by working for the independence of Tibet. The Dalai Lama says he is only seeking to expand autonomy, not establish a separate state.
The White House dismissed China's concerns, saying the president has had private meetings with many religious leaders, including the pope.
"The president believes that people all over the world should be able to express their religion and practice their religion in freedom. And that's why the president wants to meet with him," press secretary Dana Perino said. "He believes he should be honored as a great spiritual leader."
The Dalai Lama brushed off China's furious reaction to the meeting.
"That always happens," he said with a laugh, speaking to reporters gathered outside his downtown Washington hotel.
He said that during their meeting, he explained to Bush what was happening in Tibet and said he thanked the president for "showing his concern about Tibet."
"We know each other, and we have developed, I think, a very close friendship — something like a reunion of one family," the Dalai Lama said, speaking of Bush.
In recognition of China's objections, the Bush administration did not release photographs of Tuesday's White House meeting: "We in no way want to stir the pot and make China feel that we are, you know, poking a stick in their eye," Perino said.
Liu Jianchao, a foreign ministry spokesman, denied that China pulled out of a planned international meeting on Iran's nuclear program in response, adding that the move was made for "technical reasons." A State Department official said Monday that Beijing had balked at attending the Berlin meeting, which had been set for today, since it would be on the same day as the award ceremony.
Beijing has faced recent setbacks in its bid to subdue the Dalai Lama's profile. In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Nobel laureate. In June, the Dalai Lama met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Canada granted him honorary citizenship last year.
"These sorts of criticisms will not help the image of China internationally," said Tsering Tashi, the Dalai Lama's London-based representative at the Office of Tibet, a group that considers itself the government in exile.
Beijing could find itself frustrated by the growing number of Chinese people embracing Buddhism and becoming increasingly interested in Tibetan people and culture, he added.
"The Chinese government reacts negatively, whereas many Chinese people are increasingly sympathetic," Tashi said.
The Dalai Lama's visit to the White House was his 12th with a sitting or former U.S. president and his third with Bush. The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is Congress' highest civilian honor and is being awarded to the Dalai Lama to recognize what Congress called "his many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights and religious understanding."
Today's planned ceremony comes at a sensitive time for Beijing. This week, China holds the 17th Party Congress, the most important event on the communist nation's political calendar, a time when almost any distraction is viewed as an affront.
"We are furious," said Tibet's Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there can be no justice or good people in this world."
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:01 AM
Rebels tighten hold on Libya oil port
UPDATE - 09:29 AM
Reality leads US to temper its tough talk on Libya
UPDATE - 09:38 AM
2 Ark. injection wells may be closed amid quakes
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.