02/19/2010, 00.00
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Dalai Lama meets Obama, Beijing warns serious consequences on bilateral relations

The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists meets US president privately. China’s Foreign Ministry goes on the attack, as people in some Tibetan provinces celebrate the event with fireworks.
Washington (AsiaNews) – Everything went as expected. As soon as the Dalai Lama set foot in the White House, China strongly filed a protest against the meeting between the Buddhist leader and US President Barack Obama. A note from the Chinese Foreign Ministry threatened serious consequences to Sino-American relations, something that China has tried to avoid at all costs.

The meeting between the two Nobel Prize laureates took place in the Map Room at the White House, not the Oval Office, usually reserved for official meetings with foreign dignitaries. The White House reiterated the president met the Dalai Lama in his capacity as a spiritual leader.

The meeting was off limits to the media, but an official picture of the two men was released later during the day.

In the evening, the Tibetan spiritual leader was scheduled to meet with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, whom he had already met during the presidency of her husband Bill Clinton.

Despite the diplomatic limits imposed on the meeting, Tibetans in the United States hailed it as a success.

In Rebkong (Tongren in Chinese), celebrations were held at the night. Since the Chinese government has imposed tight controls on the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibetan monks who live in the Dalai Lama’s native town waited for the safety of darkness to celebrate the meeting between their leader and the US president.

It matters little “how His Holiness was received,” they said. “The fact that this American government will not allow itself to be intimidated by China means a lot to us,” said an abbot from a monastery in the Tibetan County of Amdo, who asked to be anonymous for security reasons. The area where he lives is under tight police control since unrest hit Lhasa in the summer of 2008. Still, he and his fellow monks were even able to shoot fireworks in the night sky.

Whatever hopes Tibetans hold about the meeting, they are about the international perception of their cause. “The Chinese are always talking badly about us Tibetan. They say we riot and are pro-independence. But this is not true and the world must know it. We are hoping that this meeting will help others understand that we want only peace.”

Yet the abbot could not help but take a shot at the Chinese. “In any event,” the Tibetan source said, “the Chinese are 1.3 billion people and don’t have a single Nobel prize. We are six million, and our leader won the Nobel Prize for peace. That should mean something, doesn’t it?”

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