Tibetan political leader visits White House for first time in six decades

Tibetan political leader visits White House for first time in six decades

FILE PHOTO: China showcases poverty alleviation during a government organised tour of Tibet
FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary police officers swap positions during a change of guard in front of Potala Palace in Lhasa, during a government-organised tour of the Tibet Autonomous Region, China, Oct 15, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo)

SHANGHAI: The head of the Tibetan government in exile has visited the US White House for the first time in six decades, a move that could further infuriate Beijing, which has accused the United States of trying to destabilise the region.

Lobsan Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), was invited to the White House to meet the newly appointed US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Robert Destro, on Friday (Nov 20), the CTA said in a press release.

"This unprecedented meeting perhaps will set an optimistic tone for CTA participation with US officials and be more formalised in the coming years," said the CTA, which is based in India's Dharamshala.

READ: China sharply expands mass labour programme in Tibet

Tibet has become one of the areas of dispute between the United States and China, with relations between the world's two biggest economies at their lowest point in decades.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Beijing in July of violating Tibetan human rights and said Washington supported "meaningful autonomy" for the region.

READ: China, US trade tit-for-tat visa curbs over Tibet

Beijing officials have since accused the United States of using Tibet to try to promote "splittism" in China. China has also refused to engage with Destro.

China seized control of Tibet in 1950 in what it described as a "peaceful liberation" that helped it throw off its "feudalist past", but critics led by the exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama say Beijing's rule amounts to "cultural genocide".

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in August that China needed to build an "impregnable fortress" in Tibet in order to protect national unity.

Source: Reuters/kv

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