WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush next month will attend a ceremony to award the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama, an event likely to annoy China which views Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader as a separatist.
White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Thursday that Bush would attend the October 17 ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
“This will be the first time that a sitting U.S. president will appear with the Dalai Lama in a public event,” the International Campaign for Tibet said.
Bush has previously met with the Dalai Lama at the White House.
The Dalai Lama who fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against communist rule in 1959 is branded by China as a “separatist.” The Nobel Peace Prize winner says he only wants greater autonomy for the region.
The award ceremony will come just weeks after Bush’s current efforts to try to persuade China to influence the military rulers of Myanmar to stop using force against protesters and to release political prisoners.
China chided German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week for hosting the Dalai Lama and demanded Berlin take action to repair damage to bilateral ties.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China was “strongly dissatisfied” that Merkel, who met the Dalai Lama at the Chancellery in Berlin on Sunday, ignored repeated protests by Beijing.
Critics have accused China of repressing religious freedom in Tibet, but Beijing counters by saying it invests large amounts of money every year to modernize the underdeveloped region.