President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, defying calls from Beijing to scrap the talks.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua, a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, said Friday the talks were “doomed to be a lose-lose deal” and were “certain to harm China-US relations.”
In an apparent nod to the sensitivity of the talks, Obama was expected to hold the meeting in the Map Room rather than the Oval Office where he normally hosts foreign leaders, perhaps in an attempt to give the meeting a lower profile and diffuse Chinese criticism.
The President is currently meeting w/His Holiness the @DalaiLama in his capacity as an internationally respected religious & cultural leader
— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) February 21, 2014
China describes the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violence to create an independent Tibet, while the Dalai Lama says he is only seeking greater autonomy.
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Ahead of Friday's meeting, the Chinese foreign ministry warned the talks would “seriously damage” US-China relations. Beijing issued similar warnings the last time the two Nobel peace laureates met in 2010 and 2011.
"The United States' arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai would be a gross interference in China's internal affairs and is a serious violation of the norms of international relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
"It will seriously damage Sino-US relations. We urge the United States to take seriously China's concerns, immediately cancel plans for the US leader to meet the Dalai, do not facilitate and provide a platform for Dalai's anti-China separatist activities in the United States."
US officials said Washington did not support independence for Tibet, but was concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.
President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama today sends a strong message of support for human rights, peace, and compassion.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) February 21, 2014
China has been accused of repressing political and religious freedoms in Tibet, charges Beijing denies. Chinese leaders claim they have invested heavily in the economic development of the region, which has improved the lives of Tibetans.
In the past five years, dozens of Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire in protest at Beijing's policies in their homeland.