China protests Dalai Lama meeting with visiting U.S. officials

China protests Dalai Lama meeting with visiting U.S. officials

Beijing terms meeting ‘interference’; Dalai Lama says China has sent him feelers for talks

China on Monday protested the meeting between the Dalai Lama and officials of the “Central Tibetan Administration” (CTA) with visiting U.S. official Uzra Zeya in Delhi, calling it an attempt to “interfere” in China’s “internal affairs”.

Ahead of the meeting with Ms. Zeya, the Dalai Lama, who arrived in Delhi on Saturday, said that Tibetans did not seek “independence” and he was open for talks with the Chinese Government, who he said had sent feelers to him.

Ms. Zeya, who is the U.S. Under Secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights, and also the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, met the Tibetan leader and the officials of the Dharmshala-based CTA on Sunday evening as part of a week-long visit to India and Bangladesh and is scheduled to meet government officials and civil society activists in both capitals.

Last week, Ms. Zeya attended birthday celebrations for the Dalai Lama’s 88th birthday, organised by the “Office of Tibet in Washington” as well. 

“Xizang [Tibet] affairs are purely internal affairs of China and no external forces have the right to interfere. China firmly opposes any form of contact between foreign officials and the “Tibetan independence” forces,” the Chinese embassy spokesperson in India said in a statement, referring to the Chinese government’s official name for Tibet.

China had similarly protested Ms. Zeya’s visit to Dharamshala to meet the Dalai Lama in May 2022 and had opposed the setting up of the “special coordinator on Tibetan issues” post by the Biden administration in 2021.  

“The U.S. should take concrete actions to honour its commitment of acknowledging Xizang as part of China, stop meddling in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xizang-related issues, and offer no support to the anti-China separatist activities of the Dalai clique,” the spokesperson added, while also referring to the CTA as a “separatist political group” not recognised by any country.

Speaking to journalists before leaving Dharamshala on Saturday, however, the Dalai Lama had said that Tibet was part of China, and that the Chinese Government had “officially and unofficially” reached out to him for talks. 

“We are not seeking independence. We are decided since many years that we remain a part of People’s Republic of China,” the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile said. 

“China also realises that Tibetan people, they have spirit, [they are] very strong. So you see in order to deal with Tibetan problem, they want to [have] contact with me, and I am also ready,” he said. “Now China is changing, also the Chinese [Government], officially or unofficially [requested] contact with me,” he added. 

China has not held formal talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010. Since then officials have stated that any talks pertained to the Dalai Lama’s “future” including his request to revisit his homeland, and not the “future of Tibet”.  

Neither the U.S. embassy nor the CTA disclosed details of the discussions held in Delhi. However, photographs of the event were posted on the CTA’s social media pages, which showed the Dalai Lama, accompanied by CTA Sikyong (Political Leader) Penpa Tsering speaking with Ms. Zeya and U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti.

Another photograph showed the full U.S. delegation, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu and Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID Anjali Kaur. In the photograph, the senior U.S. officials in the front row are seen kneeling on the floor next to the Dalai Lama seated in a chair. 

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