Bush meets Dalai Lama, ignoring China's objections


Wed Nov 9, 2005 04:08 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush met at the White House on Wednesday with the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, ignoring objections from China 10 days before he makes an official visit to Beijing.

The private meeting with the president and the first lady came one day after the Bush administration named China a serious violator of religious freedom in a report to Congress.

"We've made our views very clear when it comes to our support for religious freedom... And we will continue to speak out on those issues," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The Chinese government opposed Bush's meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"The Dalai Lama is not a mere religious figure. He is a political refugee who has conducted activities splitting China and undermining national unity," said Chu Maoming, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

"We are opposed to any invitation by any country extended to him. We are also opposed to any meetings with him."

Wednesday's meeting was Bush's third with the Dalai Lama. Next week Bush is due to visit Beijing and hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The Dalai Lama told reporters on Tuesday that talks between Tibetans and China have done little to ease a "very repressive" atmosphere in Chinese-ruled Tibet.

The 70-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader, who is head of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in India, was visiting Washington for a conference on science and meditation.

He fled to India after a failed uprising by Tibetans in 1959, nine years after China's People's Liberation Army marched into Tibet to establish communist rule.

The human rights record in China, where everything from critical Internet postings to publishing underground newspapers to religious worship can carry a stiff jail term, is a constant source of friction between Beijing and Washington.

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