The feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese people are about to be hurt once again as Barack Obama is set to meet with the Dalai Lama later today.
According to the SCMP, the meeting will commence behind closed doors in the Map Room on Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. (10:15 p.m. China time). This comes after the Dalai Lama’s speech on Monday, as he led a minute of silent prayer for the victims of Sunday’s Orlando massacre.
Although their last formal meeting was held in February 2014, the two leaders have regularly bumped into each other since. Obama has called the Dalai Lama “a good friend,” stating that the exiled leader is “a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion.”
China is obviously uncomfortable with the two becoming BFFs and once again criticized Obama’s move to meet with His Holiness. According to Reuters, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang had this to say:
The 14th Dalai Lama often puts up the facade of religion to peddle internationally his political position of splitting China.
We demand no country or government give him any space for such activities and should certainly not do anything the 1.3 billion people of China would resolutely oppose.
The reaction to Lu’s statement has been mixed on the Chinese internet. Referring to the common rhetoric which Chinese authorities often employ, some web users on Weibo pointed to the “1.3 billion people” claim and noted how they were represented once again without their knowledge. Another argued: “How do you even know 1.3 billion people oppose this, have you done any research?”
Nevertheless, other commenters struck back with statements like:
“Although you have been represented without your knowledge, is that really a suitable reason to support a divided country?”
“There are so many brainless commenters here.”
“Obama must have a lot of time on his hands, has he even finished with the terrorists yet?”
The most popular post on the thread comes with a healthy dose of patriotic zeal:
If some people do not oppose an active schemer who regularly seeks to split and divide our country, then they must be pretty brainwashed! No matter what, the Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetan independence. Even if you are dissatisfied with the government, at least the government is protecting our country. Yet many traitors here keep repeating “You should not represent us, let Dalai do his work!”
Meeting with the Dalai Lama has always been a risky business for those that want to remain friends of China. Beijing has regularly condemned those who have supported or even shook hands with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Even musicians like Bon Jovi and Selena Gomez have been banned from visiting China or have had their concert dates scrapped for posing for a picture with the Dalai Lama or using his image as a backdrop. This has made even some of the most powerful governments and most holy world leaders reluctant to meet with the Dalai Lama.
In Chinese media, the Dalai Lama is often condemned in creative fashion. Last year, officials attempted to paint a picture of him as a stooge for ISIS after the exiled leader called for an open dialogue with the terrorist organization. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was also compared by Party mouthpiece the Global Times to Saddam Hussein, reasoning that worship of his image by Tibetans in Sichuan is akin to preaching the gospel about the former Iraqi dictator in the US.
For his part, the Dalai Lama maintains that he wants genuine autonomy for Tibet, not outright independence. He also says that when he dies, he probably won’t come back, further pissing China off.
By Arnie Yung
[Images via Wikimedia / AsiaNews]