Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama's Wave to Dalai Lama Riles China ; Beijing Accuses President of Trying to Further Fuel Its Tensions with Tibet

Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama's Wave to Dalai Lama Riles China ; Beijing Accuses President of Trying to Further Fuel Its Tensions with Tibet

Article excerpt

State media accused President Obama of orchestrating the occasion and suggested it was designed to complicate China's governance of Tibet.

China and the United States have worked out a reliable pas de deux over the Dalai Lama, the Nobel laureate and Tibetan spiritual leader, whom Beijing sometimes describes as a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

It goes like this: Chinese leaders warn the White House against granting the Dalai Lama a public audience, and the American president either ignores the threats of diplomatic fallout or finds a way to hold a meeting that will result in the least offense to Beijing.

Since taking office, President Obama has met with the Dalai Lama on three occasions, each time within the privacy of the White House rather than during the kind of public event that might prompt outsize indignation on the part of Chinese leaders.

Then, on Thursday, Mr. Obama was handed a diplomatically novel way to express his admiration for the Dalai Lama when the two exchanged greetings at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington and the president described him as a "good friend."

Video footage of the event showed Mr. Obama clasping his hands in a gesture of reverence and then waving at the Dalai Lama with a broad smile. In a speech, he described the exiled Buddhist leader, 79, as a "powerful example of what it means to practice compassion," one "who inspired us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings."

The highly public episode infuriated Beijing, which accused Mr. Obama of cynically orchestrating the encounter and suggested it was designed to complicate China's governance of Tibet, the vast, strategically pivotal region that has bridled at Beijing's heavy- handed rule since Communist troops invaded in 1950.

"The Dalai Lama has over a long period of time used the banner of religion to engage in separatist, anti-Chinese activities as a political exile," Hong Lei, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said during a regular news conference on Friday. "We oppose any foreign country allowing the Dalai Lama to visit and oppose any country using the issue of Tibet to interfere in China's internal affairs. …

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