Obama greets Dalai Lama, upsets China

Beijing/London, Feb 6 (IANS) US President Barack Obama has angered China after warmly acknowledging Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and calling him “a good friend” at a national prayer breakfast in Washington, media reports said on Saturday.

Obama did not directly meet the Dalai Lama who was seated among the audience at the annual White House National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, but bowed to the Tibetan Buddhist leader and called him a “good friend”, The Guardian reported.

The Dalai Lama is “a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion and who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings”, Obama said during his speech.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Friday said that Beijing is “against foreign countries interfering in China’s domestic affairs under the pretext of Tibet-related issues”.

“The Dalai Lama is seeking support from foreign counties to realise his political end, but he cannot succeed,” Hong added, calling the spiritual leader “a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the pretext of religion”.

It was the first time Obama and the Dalai Lama were seen together in public. Three previous encounters have been held behind closed doors relations with China.

China has long opposed any meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign heads of state. South Africa has refused three times to grant the Dalai Lama visas to visit the country, including one to attend a summit of Nobel peace laureates in October 2015.

In December, Pope Francis declined to meet with the Dalai Lama amid a push by the Vatican to improve ties with Beijing.

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