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Obama ignores China protest to meet Dalai Lama

Reuters/Yuri Gripas

US President Barack Obama is to welcome the Dalai Lama to the White House on Saturday despite an official protest by China. During the meeting the president is expected to pledge support for human rights in Tibet. 


In line with a similar visit between the two men in February 2010, the White House is trying to make the visit as low-key as possible. Obama will receive the Dalai Lama in the Map Room and not the Oval Office where he usually welcomes heads of state and there will be no reporters.

The announcement of the meeting on Friday comes after a long silence on whether or not it would take place. The Dalai Lama is leaving the US on Saturday after an 11-day visit to Washington to lead a Kalachakra, a tantric ritual last held more than five years ago in India.

Ahead of the meeting, China’s foreign minister urged the US to immediately revoke its decision and to “honour its serious commitment that recognises Tibet as part of China”.

Beijing describes the Dalai Lama, who has a large following in the US, as a “splittist” bent on dividing China.

US lawmakers welcomed the Dalai Lama to the Capitol on 7 July and several of them had criticised the president believing he had decided not to meet him because of pressure from China.

Representative Chris Smith contrasted Saturday’s meeting with the weeks of preparation for the state visit in January by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who he described as one of the world’s biggest violators of human rights.

The Dalai Lama's trip comes just ahead of several high-level talks between the world’s two largest economies.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to China next month for talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also hold talks in China on 25 July.

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