DHARAMSALA—U.S. President Barack Obama plans to meet with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai
Lama despite warnings the move could damage U.S.-China relations,
a White House spokesman said Tuesday.
“The President told China's leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama, and he intends to do so,” the spokesman said, adding that a date will be announced as the meeting draws nearer.
“The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the President will meet with him in that capacity,” he said.
The Dalai Lama was presented with an award last October by top congressional leaders from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, though he was unable to secure a meeting with Obama.
During his visit, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs rejected suggestions that Obama was bowing to pressure from Beijing, despite recent efforts to strengthen bilateral relations with China.
Some congressional Republicans accused Obama of “kowtowing” to Beijing and voiced concern that China would regard his decision as an acceptance of further restrictions in Tibet.
Talks break down
Meanwhile, talks on the status of Tibet remain stalled due to Chinese negotiators’ "distortions" of goals presented by the Tibetan government-in-exile, according to a representative of the Dalai Lama.
“The problems in negotiations arose because of the difference in approach to consolidating all the Tibetan areas of China under Tibetan leadership,” senior Tibetan envoy Lodi Gyari said at a press briefing Tuesday in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
The Tibetan government-in-exile hopes to see a unified autonomous administration of the Tibetan people that unites the TAR with Tibetan-populated regions in China's western provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai.
The briefing followed five days of talks on Tibetan autonomy that ended Jan. 31, the 9th round of dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing since 2002.
Gyari said that Chinese negotiators declared that Tibetan proposals must not hurt Chinese "national interests," must not contradict China's Constitution, and must not endanger the "national loyalty" of China’s minorities.
“All of these requirements can be fulfilled according to the Dalai Lama’s proposals. We are not engaging in separatism or independence, and we are proceeding according to China’s Constitution,” he said.
Gyari said that Chinese negotiators had misrepresented many of the Dalai Lama’s positions on autonomy for Tibet.
He said Beijing accused the Tibetan government-in-exile of trying to reestablish Tibet's “old society” and of attempting to undermine Chinese control of the region.
“We told the Chinese officials that we would not even dream of resurrecting the old society and that the Dalai Lama has no intention of letting the government-in-exile take over leadership in Tibet,” Gyari said.
Gyari said that Beijing had taken “important” steps in preparing for the most recent round of talks.
He noted that the Chinese government had recently invited Tibetans from around China to a 5th Tibet Work Forum—a conference seeking ways to provide unified policies for the TAR and other Tibetan-populated regions of China.
But Beijing stopped short of calling for a unified administration for these areas.
“This is what the government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama want—a policy of looking at all Tibetans under one administration. But the idea of one administration angers the Chinese. They call it intent to separate [Tibet] from China and to create a ‘Greater Tibet,’” Gyari said.
‘Sharply divided’ views
Chinese negotiator Zhu Weiqun, executive vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, said after the talks at a press conference in Beijing that the two sides held “sharply divided” views “as usual” during the latest round of talks.
Zhu said the central government has called on the Dalai Lama to “cease separatist activities, openly admit that Tibet and Taiwan are inalienable parts of China,” and acknowledge the People’s Republic of China as the country's only legal government.
But Zhu said that talks with the envoys “had some upside” in allowing the two sides to effectively communicate their differences and to recognize how far apart they were from coming to an agreement.
Du Qinglin, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also met with the two envoys during their delegation’s visit, according to official media.
In a Feb. 1 statement, Du said that issues concerning China’s “territory” and “sovereignty” were nonnegotiable and that China's government would make no concessions, the Xinhua news agency said.
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.