Dalai Lama, Obama Hold Private Meeting at White House

Their talks are held behind closed doors and away from the press to minimize offense to China, which objected to the meeting.

The Dalai Lama and President Obama greet each other at the White House, June 15, 2016.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and U.S. President Obama met at the White House on Wednesday, speaking behind closed doors and away from the press in an apparent attempt to minimize offense to China.

Beijing routinely objects to high-level contacts between the exiled Dalai Lama and world leaders and had already warned against Wednesday’s meeting, saying it would “damage mutual trust and cooperation” between the United States and China, wire services said.

Chinese leaders regularly vilify the Dalai Lama, now 81, as a separatist fighting for Tibetan independence from Chinese rule.

In what he calls a Middle Way Approach, though, the Dalai Lama himself says that he seeks only a “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.

Reaffirming the U.S. position that Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China, the president in his meeting with the exiled spiritual leader also expressed his strong concern for the human rights of Tibetans living in China, the White House said in a statement released after the meeting.

“The President encouraged meaningful and direct dialogue between the Dalai Lama and his representatives with Chinese authorities to lower tensions and resolve differences,” the White House said.

Talks held on Tibet’s status between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing stalled in January 2010 and have never resumed.

Wednesday’s meeting followed talks on Tuesday between the Dalai Lama and members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.