July 8, 2011 / 2:53 AM / 8 years ago

China warns U.S. officials not to meet Dalai Lama

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Ministry warned U.S. officials on Thursday not to meet with visiting exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, saying it hoped Washington “appropriately dealt” with Tibet-related issues.

The Dalai Lama speaks after a meeting with members of Congress in the Capitol in Washington July 7, 2011. At left is Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

China reviles the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, saying he supports the use of violence to establish an independent Tibet. He strongly denies either accusation, insisting he seeks only true autonomy for the remote region.

The Dalai Lama is currently visiting the United States and is due to give a public talk in Washington Saturday.

The U.S. State Department said he met on Wednesday with Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, but that it remained to be decided whether he would have any meetings at higher levels.

On Thursday, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other senior U.S. lawmakers also met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing’s position on the Dalai Lama’s foreign visits was clear.

“We oppose the underhand visits of the Dalai Lama which he uses to engage in activities to split the motherland,” Hong told a regular news briefing.

“At the same time, we also oppose any foreign government or politicians supporting or abetting in such activities by the Dalai Lama,” he added.

“We hope that the United States strictly abide by its promises on the Tibet issue and ... cautiously and appropriately deal with relevant issues,” Hong said.

The Dalai Lama met U.S. President Barack Obama last year, drawing strong denunciation from Beijing.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement saying Obama should also meet the Dalai Lama to make it “clear that the U.S. sides with the victims in Tibet, not the perpetrators in Beijing.”

“President Obama has an opportunity to make a strong statement about what we stand for by meeting with the Dalai Lama during his current visit, and I urge him to take it,” said Ros-Lehtinen, a staunch critic of Communist governments.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said China had complained about the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Otero, who is the State Department’s coordinator for Tibet issues.

“The Chinese always make their views known when the Dalai Lama is in Washington,” she said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Eric Walsh

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