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China protests Dalai Lama's White House visit

| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 7:24 p.m.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama folds his hands while speaking at an event entitled: 'Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing' Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2010, file photo, The Dalai Lama walks out of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Barack Obama. Obama will host Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for a meeting on Feb. 21, 2014, the White House said, in a move that could rankle already tense relations between the U.S. and China. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

BEIJING — China demanded that President Obama cancel a meeting on Friday with the Dalai Lama, but it went ahead as scheduled at the White House, albeit in low-key fashion.

Ignoring Beijing's warning that the meeting would severely harm U.S.-China relations, Obama met the Tibetan spiritual leader in the Map Room of the White House. It was the president's third such meeting with the Dalai Lama and the first of his second term. Obama last met the Dalai Lama in July 2011.

Each meeting has drawn severe criticism from China, which considers the Dalai Lama an anti-China separatist.

“The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement before the White House meeting. “By arranging a meeting between the president and the Dalai Lama, the U.S. side will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-U.S. relations.”

In a news release about the meeting, the White House said Obama “reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China.”

It said Obama “expressed support for the Dalai Lama's ‘Middle Way' approach” of seeking neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans. Obama encouraged “direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences” between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, while restating the U.S. position that Tibet is part of China and that “the United States does not support Tibet independence,” the White House news release said.

The White House did not officially announce the meeting with the Dalai Lama until late Thursday. The exiled Buddhist monk is visiting the United States on a speaking tour.

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