China opposes Dalai Lama meeting foreign leaders 'in any form'

China opposes Dalai Lama meeting foreign leaders 'in any form'

BEIJING - China said Monday it opposed foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama "in any form", ahead of a public appearance by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader with US President Barack Obama.

Obama will attend the National Prayer Breakfast with the Dalai Lama in Washington on Thursday, the White House previously said.

"We are opposed to any foreign leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama in any form," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing in Beijing, decrying foreign interference in China's "domestic affairs".

"We hope that the American side will act upon its commitment on Tibet-related issues and properly deal with relevant issues in keeping with the overall interests of bilateral relations."

White House officials tried to play down the simultaneous appearance, stressing the two men have met three times before. There was no "specific meeting" between them to announce, they said.

Previous meetings have been held behind closed doors and outside the Oval Office, in a move designed to limit the diplomatic fallout with China.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet. Beijing accuses him of seeking independence for Tibet and has called him "a wolf in sheep's clothing".

More than 130 ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest at Beijing's rule, campaign groups and overseas media have said. Most of them have died.

A series of leaders have dodged meetings with the 79-year-old monk, most recently Pope Francis, who did not meet the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan visited Rome. South Africa - whose ruling party was once led by his fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela - again denied him a visa last year.

The government-published China Daily newspaper said in an editorial Monday: "Should a president of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China's toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations.

"Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama's attempt to split Tibet from China."

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