Obama meets Dalai Lama behind closed doors
US President Barack Obama defied Chinese criticism Saturday to meet with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, DPA reported.
However, the meeting was held behind closed doors at the White House, and not in the Oval Office. The media were excluded from the meeting.
Earlier Saturday China called on the United States to the meeting, saying it was a interference in China's internal affairs.
"China steadfastly opposes any form of meeting between senior foreign government officials and the Dalai Lama," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
Obama last met with the Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner in February after the White House had delayed a meeting scheduled months earlier. Meetings between the US presidents and the Dalai Lama typically prompt denouncements from Beijing.
"This meeting underscores the president's strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans," the White House ahead of the closed-door talks.
"The president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences," the White House said.
The Chinese government views the Dalai Lama as the key figure advocating Tibetan independence and resents meetings between him and other world leaders.
The Dalai Lama said he does not seek independence for Tibet but wants great autonomy for the region within China.