Washington/Beijing: US President Barack Obama on Friday offered "strong support" for Tibetans` human rights as he met the region`s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, defying China which lodged a diplomatic protest stating that bilateral ties had been seriously damaged by it.
Obama, during the meeting, extended support to the Dalai Lama`s "Middle Way" approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China.
"The President reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet`s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People`s Republic of China," the White House said after the meeting.
The meeting took place in the Map Room of the White House -- Obama`s residence -- and not in his Oval Office, where the President usually holds talks with visiting dignitaries.
Obama commended the 78-year-old Dalai Lama`s commitment to peace and non-violence.
"The President stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans," the White House said in a statement.
"In this context, the President reiterated the US position that Tibet is part of the People`s Republic of China and that the US does not support Tibet independence," it said.
The Dalai Lama stated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hoped that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume, the statement said.
"The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and constructive relationship between the United States and China," it said.
Lashing out at Obama for meeting the Dalai Lama despite pleas to cancel it, China tonight summoned US Charge d`Affaires in Beiging and lodged a diplomatic protest stating that the meeting seriously damaged bilateral ties.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned Daniel Kritenbrink, Charge d`Affaires of US Embassy in China, to lodge solemn representations for Obama`s meeting with the Dalai Lama regardless of China`s strong opposition, Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Zhang said such a wrong move gravely interfered in China`s internal affairs, seriously violated the US commitment of not supporting the "Tibet independence", gravely violated basic norms governing the international relations and seriously undermined the China-US relations.
"China expresses strong indignation and firm opposition," Zhang said.