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Dalai Lama and Obama in first public appearance together PDF Print E-mail
[11 February 2015] On 5 February, the Dalai Lama and President Obama appeared together in public for the first time. The Dalai Lama was attending an event hosted by the American President at the White House. China criticised the encounter saying it would have "negative consequences" and would "dampen" China-US relations.

President ObamaThe Dalai Lama's appearance at the annual National Prayer Breakfast was his first public encounter with a US President in eight years. In 2007, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W Bush. Since coming to office, President Obama has met the Dalai Lama on three ocassions, though all were private meetings, with media only allowed access to take photographs.

The Dalai Lama and Valerie JarrettDuring his speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama welcomed the Dalai Lama (pictured right, above) and referred to him as a "good friend". He said the Dalai Lama is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings. The Dalai Lama was seated in the front row, next to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett (pictured right, below), which was reported by Voice of America as a sign of White House support.

Prior to the event the Chinese government reiterated its opposition to any country meeting with the Dalai Lama. China's Foreign Ministry stated, "We are against any countrys interference in Chinas domestic affairs under the pretext of Tibet-related issues, and are opposed to any foreign leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama in any form."

Chinese state media criticised Obama for the encounter labelling him as a "trouble-maker". The state news agency Xinhua stated the public appearance would be "sure to have negative consequences because the Dalai Lama is a political liability which backfires." It called the relationship between Obama and the Dalai Lama "hypocritical" consisting of "nothing but political deals and cold calculations" and claimed that Obama had "dampened the hard-won positive momentum in China-US relations" by meeting the Dalai Lama.

Dr Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan Prime Minister in exile, said, "The symbolism [of the meeting] is very important for the Tibetan people and for justice around the world." Dr Sangay dismissed China's criticism as "noise" and that the Dalai Lama's attendance was purely a spiritual matter.

Further reading: AFP I VOA I BBC I Telegraph I Xinhua

Videos:
Obama welcomes Dalai Lama to Prayer Breakfast (1 min, VOA on facebook)
Interview with Lobsang Sangay on Obama-Dalai Lama meeting (2 mins, BBC)


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