China accuses US of ‘interference’ after top official meets the Dalai Lama

Explicitly referring to the Tibetan spiritual leader as a “separatist”, the Chinese foreign ministry said the US also interfered in its “internal affairs” by appointing a special official for Tibetan affairs
The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama watching at a block of ice from the Khardung La glacier presented to him by India's climate activist Sonam Wangchuk (not pictured) on the occasion of the Earth Day in McLeod Ganj. (AFP)
The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama watching at a block of ice from the Khardung La glacier presented to him by India's climate activist Sonam Wangchuk (not pictured) on the occasion of the Earth Day in McLeod Ganj. (AFP)
Published on May 19, 2022 06:33 PM IST
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Beijing on Thursday criticised the meeting of a senior American diplomat and the 14th Dalai Lama, calling it a violation of Washington’s commitment to the position that Tibet is a part of China.

Explicitly referring to the Tibetan spiritual leader as a “separatist”, the Chinese foreign ministry said the US also interfered in its “internal affairs” by appointing a special official for Tibetan affairs. It violated Washington’s commitment that it does not support Tibetan separatists, the ministry added.

Beijing’s strong response came after US special coordinator for Tibetan affairs Uzra Zeya met the Dalai Lama on Thursday, the first such visit of a senior official from US President Joe Biden’s administration.

The two discussed the rich traditions of freedom and democracy in the US and India, and Zeya conveyed Biden’s greetings to the Dalai Lama.

Zeya, appointed as the special coordinator for Tibetan issues in December last year, is on a visit to India and Nepal, from May 17-22.

“First I would like to say that the Tibetan government-in-exile is an out and out separatist group which greatly violates China’s constitution and law. It is illegal and is not recognised by any country in the world,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said when asked to comment on Zeya’s visit at a press briefing on Thursday.

China has criticised the Dalai Lama in the past and strongly opposed any contact between him and World politicians or diplomats.

“The 14th Dalai Lama is a political exile disguised as a religious person and engages in anti-China separatist activities and attempts to split Tibet from China,” Zhao said, adding: “Tibet is part of China and Tibetan religious affairs are China’s internal affairs.”

Remarking on Washington’s appointment of a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, he said, “China is firmly opposed to it and has never recognised it.”

“The US should take earnest actions to abide by its commitment admitting that Tibet is a part of China and not supporting Tibet’s independence. It should not provide any support for separatist activities by the anti-China Dalai clique,” Zhao said, adding: “China will continue to take measures to defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests.”

The Dalai Lama has been living in India ever since he fled Tibet in 1959 following Beijing’s crackdown in the remote region. Beijing has been accused of isolating the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) by banning journalists and diplomats from travelling to the region by themselves, using coercive methods to Sinicise Tibetan Buddhism and deliberately erode the distinct Tibetan culture and language.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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Thursday, June 30, 2022