The head of the exiled Tibetan government visited the US White House for the first time in six decades on Friday, a move that could further infuriate China, which has accused the United States of trying to destabilise the region.
Lobsang Sangay entered the United States White House on Friday — a historic feat. This is the first time in the last 6 decades the head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has been invited into the White House, the CTA said in a statement.
“It is a great honour to be the first political head of the Central Tibetan Administration to formally enter the White House,” Sangay said in a tweet.
It is a great honor to be the first political head of the Central Tibetan Administration to formally enter the White House https://t.co/nbdVONjlmg
— Lobsang Sangay (@Drlobsangsangay) November 20, 2020
“Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head… This unprecedented meeting perhaps will set an optimistic tone for CTA participation with US officials and be more formalised in the coming years,” said the CTA, which is based in India’s Dharamshala.
Sangay, the President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), was invited to the White House to meet the newly appointed US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Robert Destro, on Friday, it said.
US APPOINTS TIBET AFFAIRS CHIEF, ENRAGES CHINA
Tibet has become one of the areas of dispute between the United States and China, with relations between the world’s two biggest economies at their lowest point in decades.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on October 15 named senior diplomat Destro as Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues, who, among other matters, would focus on advancing the dialogue between the Communist government in China and the Dalai Lama.
Announcing Destro’s appointment, Pompeo said it was consistent with the Tibetan Policy Act and he will lead the US efforts to promote dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives; protect the unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity of Tibetans; and press for their human rights to be respected.
After Destro’s appointment, exiled president Lobsang Sangay met him and discussed the situation in Tibet.
Beijing officials have since accused the United States of using Tibet to try to promote “splittism” in China. China has also refused to engage with Destro.
Asked about the Destro-Sangay meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here last month: “Xizang’s (Tibet’s) affairs (are) purely China’s internal affairs. No external forces shall interfere in them”.
Unlike in the past, the Chinese officials in recent times have been referring to Tibet only as Xizang.
“Appointing the so-called special coordinator for Tibetan issues is a political move to interfere in China’s internal affairs and sabotage Xizang’s stability. It is China’s consistent position we firmly oppose that and we will not acknowledge that. We have lodged stern representation to the US side,” he said.
China firmly opposes any official exchanges between countries having diplomatic ties with China and Taiwan or signing any official documents, he said.
China seized control over Tibet in 1950 in what it described as a “peaceful liberation” that helped it throw off its “feudalist past”, but critics led by the exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama say Beijing’s rule amounts to “cultural genocide”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in August that China needed to build an “impregnable fortress” in Tibet in order to protect national unity.