Hours before US President Barack Obama's meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama at the White House, China today demanded its immediate cancellation, warning that the unjustified interference in its domestic affairs will cause "great damage" to bilateral ties.
US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden yesterday announced that President Obama "will meet the Dalai Lama in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader" on Friday.
The White House announcement drew sharp reaction from China, which has long opposed foreign dignitaries meeting with the 78-year-old Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959.
"We urge the United States to take China's concerns seriously and not to facilitate or offer occasion for the Dalai Lama to conduct anti-China secessionist moves," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
"China is greatly concerned about the meeting, and has lodged solemn representations to the US side," Hua said.
The Tibetan issue is a domestic affair for China, she said, adding that there is no other country which bears the right to interfere.
The arranged meeting is an unjustified interference with China's domestic affairs and a serious violation of the principles of international relations, and will cause great damage to China-US relations, Hua warned.
"We urge United States to take China's concerns seriously and cancel the relevant meeting and do not provide platform for Dalai's separatist activities in the US," Hua told a media briefing in Beijing.
Asked how China will respond if Obama went ahead with the meeting, she said China is firmly opposed to any foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama.
"I also want to stress that any country if it is bent on China's interests then it will find that its own interests can get hurt in the very end. Therefore we urge the US government to immediately cancel the relevant meeting so as to avoid damaging China-US relations," she said.
Obama and the Dalai Lama - both Nobel Peace Prize laureates - have met twice before, in 2010 and 2011, which drew similar protests from China.
Asked whether the meeting would adversely impact on the likely meeting between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Disarmament meeting next month, Hua said it is a hypothetical question.
"US President can decide whom he will meet but he cannot meet the Dalai Lama because he is not a pure religious figure," she said when asked why Obama cannot decide whom to meet or not.
"The Dalai Lama