The Tibetan spiritual leader met with President Obama yesterday at the White House, much to the dismay and dissatisfaction of the Chinese government.

China protested President Barack Obama‘s meeting with the Dalai Lama, saying Washington had interfered in Chinese domestic affairs and demanding that the U.S. take steps to improve relations.

Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman to lodge a ‘solemn representation’ over yesterday’s meeting at the White House, the ministry said in a statement posted on its official website.

‘The behavior of the U.S. side seriously interferes in China’s internal politics and seriously hurts the national feelings of the Chinese people,’ the statement said, quoting spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.

In his statement, Ma expressed ‘strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition’ to the meeting.

‘The Chinese side demands that the U.S. side seriously consider China’s stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact and stop conniving and supporting anti-China separatist forces that seek Tibet independence,’ said the statement, posted on the ministry’s official website.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to remove Tibet from Chinese rule and objects strongly to all contact between him and overseas leaders.

The White House said Obama told the Dalai Lama that he backs the preservation of Tibet’s culture and supports human rights for its people. He also gave encouragement to the Dalai Lama’s request for talks with the Chinese government.

While the meeting was long expected, the administration had taken considerable measures to limit its impact on China-U.S. relations. Obama had declined to see the Dalai Lama during his Washington stay in October because it would have come before the president’s visit to China in November.

What causes me to report on this story is the contrasting way that the Dalai Lama entered and exited for these meetings.

Here is that singular official photo that was released by the White House

Here is how he left the White House (out the back door, by the trash cans)

After the White House meeting, the Dalai Lama chided Beijing for taking a ‘childish’ and ‘limited’ approach to Tibet’s quest for greater autonomy and said Mr Obama had been ‘very much supportive’ of his views on human rights and the concerns of the Tibetan people.

His envoy, Lodi Gyari, said Tibetans feeling marginalized by China would get encouragement from the session.

The 75-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner denies China’s accusations of separatism, saying he wants only for Tibetans to have a greater say over their affairs while remaining under Chinese rule.

History

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and has since led a self-declared government-in-exile in India.

China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries and sent communist forces to occupy the Himalayan region in 1950. Many Tibetans say they were functionally independent for most of their history and accuse China of undermining Tibet’s unique Buddhist culture and flooding the region with Chinese migrants. [via]