US President Barack Obama told the visiting Dalai Lama on Saturday that the United States did not support independence for Tibet while stressing the importance of a dialogue between the Chinese authorities and Tibetans, the White House said.
Obama met with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader for roughly 45 minutes at the White House, their first meeting in more than a year which sparked strong criticism from China.
"The president reiterated his strong support for the preservation of the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions of Tibet and the Tibetan people throughout the world," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement issued after the meeting. "He underscored the importance of the protection of human rights of Tibetans in China. The president commended the Dalai Lama's commitment to nonviolence and dialogue with China," Carney said.
China expressed on Saturday its strong indignation over the meeting, described by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as a "gross" interference in China's internal affairs which "hurt the feelings of Chinese people and damaged the Sino-American relations," Xinhua reported.
"We demand the U.S. side to seriously consider China's stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces that seek 'Tibet independence'," Ma said in a statement.
The White House quoted the Dalai Lama as saying during the meeting that he was not seeking independence for Tibet and hoped that "dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government can soon resume."