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China summons U.S. ambassador over Dalai Lama meeting

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China summons ambassador
  • China expresses its "strong dissatisfaction" over Dalai Lama meeting to U.S. ambassador
  • Dalai Lama met with U.S. President Barack Obama a day earlier at the White House
  • China appealed for U.S. to "stop conniving and supporting anti-China separatist forces"
  • Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist who wishes to sever Tibet from China

Beijing, China (CNN) -- China summoned the U.S. ambassador on Friday to express its "strong dissatisfaction" over the Dalai Lama's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama a day earlier.

China didn't disclose what was discussed during the session with Ambassador Jon Huntsman at the Foreign Ministry. But Beijing had warned that a meeting between the president and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader would damage its ties with Washington.

"The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this meeting," a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Thursday's meeting at the White House.

"China demands the U.S. seriously consider China's stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the adverse impact, [and] stop conniving and supporting anti-China separatist forces."

Video: Dalai Lama: 'Very happy'
Video: Dalai Lama on meeting Obama
  • Dalai Lama
  • Barack Obama
  • Tibet
  • China

The U.S. Embassy didn't characterize Friday's meeting, but it provided the message Huntsman delivered to Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai.

"Now is the time to move forward and cooperate in ways that benefit our two counties, the region and the world," Huntsman said, according to the U.S. Embassy.

The meeting has the potential to further complicate Sino-U.S. tensions, which have been rising in recent months.

The Dalai Lama has said he favors genuine autonomy for Tibetans, not independence for Tibet. Beijing regards the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as a separatist who wishes to sever Tibet from China.

Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama "runs against the repeated commitments by the U.S. government that the U.S. recognizes Tibet as part of China and gives no support to 'Tibet independence'," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

During the meeting, Obama stressed his "strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity, and the protection of human rights for Tibetans," according to a White House statement.

The president praised the Dalai Lama's "commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government," the statement added. He also stressed the importance of having both sides "engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences, and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks," it noted.

The Dalai Lama, while acknowledging that he raised concerns about Tibet during the meeting, did not provide further specifics about his home region's political situation while addressing reporters.

He said he admired America as a "champion of democracy and ... freedom," and cited the need to promote "religious harmony" and "human value."

He also met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama could "seriously undermine the Sino-U.S. political relations," Zhu Weiqun, a senior Communist Party leader in charge of ethnic and religious affairs, warned recently.

"We will take corresponding action to make relevant countries see their mistakes."

On Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said the meeting "grossly violated the norms governing ... international relations."

Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama when the spiritual leader visited Washington last fall, making it the first time since 1991 that such a meeting did not occur. Ahead of a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama persuaded Tibetan representatives back then to postpone the meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Thursday's encounter took place against the backdrop of several contentious issues already threatening to sour the relationship between America and China, including trade disputes, a recent U.S. arm sales deal for Taiwan -- which China considers an illegitimate breakaway province -- and a censorship row over Internet search engine Google Inc.

The meeting is "another event in the recent, one has to say, downward spiral in U.S.-China relations," said China scholar David Shambaugh.

It's also troublesome for the Chinese for one other important reason, Shambaugh said.

"He could have met him as a spiritual leader in a neutral place like a church," he said. But receiving him in the White House "is a political act. And that is going to irritate China very much."

The meeting did not take place in the formal, official setting of the Oval Office. It was instead held in the White House Map Room, which is considered part of the presidential residence. The choice of settings was considered by many observers to be a sign of Washington's acknowledgment of Beijing's political sensitivities.

Some analysts said the Chinese government could retaliate by cutting off political exchanges as they did after the Dalai Lama met with the heads of state of France and Germany. And Hu could turn down an invitation to visit Washington in April.

Neither China nor the United States can afford strained relations, said Douglas Paal, a diplomat and investment banker who has served as a presidential adviser on China.

"We both need each other," he said. "We need each other for a number of international security issues -- to deal with the global climate crisis, to deal with the global financial crisis."

China is the largest growing export market for U.S. companies, Paal said, expanding by 65 percent last year alone.

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think that Tibet should be an independent country, according to a new national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll.

But the survey, released Thursday, also indicates that most Americans think it is more important to maintain good relations with China than to take a stand on Tibet.

CNN's Jo Kent, Emily Chang, Jill Dougherty, Jaime FlorCruz, Paul Steinhauser and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.