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US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India's Dharamshala, sparking anger from China


DHARAMSHALA, India (AP) — A bipartisan United States congressional delegation met with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday at his residence in India's Dharamshala, sparking anger from China which views the exiled leader as dangerous separatist.

The high-level delegation, led by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and including Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrived a day before in the hillside town, which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has made his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. India considers Tibet to be part of China, though it hosts Tibetan exiles.

The meeting with the spiritual leader is expected to focus on the Resolve Tibet Act, recently passed by the U.S. Congress, aimed at encouraging dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials that could result in a peaceful resolution to the dispute between Tibet and Beijing. The bill will now go to the White House for President Joe Biden's endorsement.

The visit comes as the U.S. and China have increased talks in recent months, in a bid to normalize strained ties. But news of the visit and the subject of the bill triggered swift backlash from China.

After arrival Tuesday, the U.S. delegation met with officials from the Tibetan government-in-exile, which wants more autonomy for Tibet.

Hundreds of people on Wednesday gathered at a monastery just outside the 88-year-old Dalai Lama's residence, where the meeting took place, waving American and Tibetan flags in support.

China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, McCaul highlighted the importance of the bill, which he said demonstrates that “the United States of America stands with the people of Tibet.”

Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, urged Washington to not support Tibetan independence and said the White House “must not sign the bill into law,” or Beijing will take “resolute measures," without elaborating on what these measures may be.

“It’s known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a pure religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Lin added on Tuesday, urging the U.S. side to “have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”

The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.

The Tibetan spiritual leader has a history of engaging with U.S. officials, he has met with all recent American presidents — from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama — except for Donald Trump and he is yet to meet Biden.

Beijing, meanwhile, has repeatedly asked the U.S. not to interfere with Tibetan affairs and has argued that the people of Tibet have enjoyed social stability and economic growth under its rule.

The Dalai Lama is expected to travel to the U.S. on Thursday for medical treatment on his knees, but it is unclear if he will meet any officials while there.


AP writers Krutika Pathi in New Delhi and Didi Tang in Washington contributed reporting.