This month, the contentious Tibetan spiritual leader has been stirring up controversy in various countries, whether or not he meets with political leaders. While attending an event in Washington D.C., the Dalai Lama created a fuss by simply being in the same building as the American president.
The National Prayer Breakfast was held last Thursday in Washington. Both President Obama and the Dalai Lama were in attendance, along with many other religious leaders and prominent political figures. His Holiness’ mere presence spawned protestors and supporters alike.
While speaking at the event, Obama greeted the Dalai Lama with a slight bow and referred to him as a “good friend.” Per Reuters, while speaking to those who were gathered at the breakfast, Obama also referred to the Dalai Lama as “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.”
Nonetheless, China still disapproved of the two dignitaries attending the same event. Hong Lei, a Foreign Ministry spokesman for China, issued a statement last Friday denouncing any country that allows entrance to the Dalai Lama as meddling with Chinese domestic affairs.
“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.”
Xinhua, the state-run news agency expressed more offense to the encounter by relaying that, by attending the same event, Obama was harming U.S.–China relations.
“This action by the U.S. to ‘drive a nail’ into the hearts of the Chinese people is harmful to the political trust between the two countries.”
In a similar occurrence, the Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, canceled her meeting with His Holiness. Danish–Chinese relations were already strained in 2009 when the former prime minister met with the Dalai Lama. Although Thorning-Schmidt has received political headaches for retracting the meeting, the spiritual leader stated that he understood her decision.
“I think it’s quite logical. I have no political responsibility so even if I met some political leaders I have nothing to ask.”
China’s ire over dignitaries meeting the Dalai Lama stems from the belief that he is actively working to undermine Chinese rule in Tibet through an independence campaign. However, the Dalai Lama has served as more of a calming factor in Tibet, warding off a potential militant uprising. In that, His Holiness has stated his disapproval of the Chinese ruling party and commented that he is simply seeking the autonomy that Tibet was promised.
Nonetheless, tensions between Tibet and China have caused international political strains.
[Featured image courtesy of Associated Press.]