China Protests to U.S. Over Dalai Lama Visit

BEIJING (Reuters) – China urged the United States on Thursday not to allow the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, to visit next week when he is expected to meet President Bush.

“We have already made representations to the U.S. on this and urged the American government to strictly abide by its recognition of Tibet as a part of China,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

It said China had requested the United States “pledge not to support ‘Tibet independence’ and not allow the Dalai to go to America to engage in activities to split China.”

Representatives of the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, said this week he would visit New York, Washington and two other cities during the three-week trip.

He would also meet Congressional leaders and senior U.S. administration officials.

The Dalai Lama says he seeks autonomy for Tibet and not separation from China, nevertheless his foreign visits invariably anger Beijing.

“The Dalai Lama is not a simple religious figure, but rather a long-time political exile engaging in activities to split China,” the ministry said in response to questions about the trip planned to start on September 4.

The Nobel prize winner has previously visited the United States where the suppression of Tibetan nationalism by Beijing has made the fate of Tibet a deeply emotive issue.

In May 2001, Bush went further than previous presidents and hosted a 30-minute meeting in the White House with the Dalai Lama during which Bush offered his strong support to the Tibetan leader.

The meeting annoyed China which accused the United States of encouraging Tibetan independence activists.

Ties between China and the Dalai Lama have since improved and his envoys have visited Beijing twice in the past year for talks with Chinese officials in what is seen as an attempt by China to seek a political solution to the Tibet issue.

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