China on Thursday hit out at the Washington visit of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, warning U.S. officials not to meet with him, as Beijing stepped up the pressure amid celebrations for his 76th birthday.
"We oppose the underhand visits of the Dalai Lama which he uses to engage in activities to split the motherland," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
Hong told a regular news briefing in Beijing that China opposes any foreign government or politicians "supporting or abetting in such activities by the Dalai Lama."
"We hope that the United States will strictly abide by its promises on the Tibet issue and deal with the relevant issues cautiously and appropriately," he said.
Also speaking to reporters on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland acknowledged China's "displeasure" at the visit.
"The Chinese always make their views known when the Dalai Lama is in Washington," Nuland said.
China has ruled the Dalai Lama out of Tibet's future, saying he supports the use of violence and Tibetan independence—a charge the Nobel peace laureate has repeatedly denied, saying instead that he only wants greater autonomy and religious freedom for Tibetans.
The Dalai Lama is visiting the United States from July 6-16, with a busy tour of spiritual lectures and events, including the Kalachakra Meditations for peace, according to his official website.
Last year, President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama, sparking strong protest from China.
The Dalai Lama fled Chinese-ruled Tibet in 1959 and has lived in exile in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala ever since.
While the White House has yet to confirm whether Obama will meet him a second time, the Dalai Lama met with a senior U.S. State Department official earlier this week, discussing Washington's support for Tibet, according to a department statement after the meeting.
On Thursday, he is scheduled to meet lawmakers including Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the top House member from President Barack Obama's Democratic Party.
Among those attending his birthday celebrations in Washington was Martin Luther King III, the son of Martin Luther King, and Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
Celebrations in Tibet
Tibetans inside China said they had tried to hold their own celebrations, but that they had to be held in secret.
"They are clamping down tightly here," said a resident of the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the southwestern province of Sichuan. "They won't let us [celebrate it] here."
A second Kardze resident confirmed that some Tibetans had held a celebration. "There was one. A lot [of people celebrated]."
But he said no one had dared to gather publicly. "We did this in our homes," he said. "We celebrate [every year]."
According to the Dharamsala-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), around 100 monks were caught by dozens of armed police reading scriptures and burning incense to mark the Dalai Lama's birthday in Kardze's Daofu county.
"The monks protested and the two sides had a standoff," said the ICT's Chinese-language spokesman, Tsoge. "The troops did not suppress the demonstration and the monks, nuns, and ordinary Tibetans dispersed after that."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.