The head of the Tibetan government in exile has visited the White House for the first time in six decades, a move that could further infuriate China, which has accused the US of trying to destabilise the region.
Lobsang Sangay, the President of the Central Tibetan administration (CTA), was invited to Washington to meet officials on Friday, the CTA said. “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.
Tibet is one of a range of areas of dispute between the US and China, with relations between the world’s two biggest economies at their lowest point in decades.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, accused Beijing in July of violating Tibetan human rights and said Washington supported “meaningful autonomy” for the region.
Beijing officials have since accused the US of using Tibet to try to promote “splittism” in China. Beijing has also refused to engage with the newly appointed US special coordinator for Tibetan issues, Robert Destro.
China seized control over 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”.
China’s president, Xi Jinping, said in August that China needed to build an “impregnable fortress” in Tibet in order to protect national unity.