- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

President Bush, in a break with the previous administration, met with the Dalai Lama at the White House yesterday, sending yet another signal to Beijing that it will not control who is welcome in the United States.

The president pledged to support the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader´s crusade to engage the Chinese government in dialogue over the future of Tibet.

The visit, coming on the 50th anniversary of Chinese rule over Tibet, angered China, which condemned the Dalai Lama´s White House reception and a separate visit to New York by Chen Shui-bian, leader of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Mr. Bush dismissed Chinese objections and met the maroon-robed monk in the White House residence, extending a greater diplomatic courtesy than the Clinton White House.

"The president commended the Dalai Lama´s commitment to nonviolence and declared his strong support for the Dalai Lama´s tireless efforts to initiate a dialogue with the Chinese government," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"The President said he would seek ways to encourage dialogue and expressed his hope that the Chinese government would respond favorably."

For his part, the Dalai Lama called the meeting "very good, very good, very good," describing the session as "very genuine, human, (with) warm feelings."

The Dalai Lama made at least five visits to the Clinton White House, but during each session President Clinton "dropped in" on a prearranged appointment with another White House official.

Yesterday, the Dalai Lama was invited to the White House specifically to meet Mr. Bush.

The president, along with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, greeted the Dalai Lama in the White House residence, not the Oval Office.

Administration officials stressed that the Dalai Lama was received in his capacity as a religious leader and that the visit did not indicate a shift in U.S. policy toward China.

Nevertheless, supporters of the Tibetan spiritual leader were heartened by the reception.

"This was definitely an upgrade. It is nice to see that His Holiness was finally afforded this level of respect," said John Ackerly, spokesman for the International Campaign for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama said he told Mr. Bush that he is seeking "genuine self-rule for a mutually equitable benefit" for Tibet and China. He said Mr. Bush shared that approach.

"I assured to him that in the future, whenever the president has an opportunity to meet with the Chinese leader, he can assure the Chinese government I´m not seeking independence," the Dalai Lama said.

In Beijing, Chinese officials reacted with fury to both visits.

Chinese state television quoted Luo Gan, the Communist Party´s top cadre for law and order, as saying the Dalai Lama was "traveling further and further down the separatist road."

The official Xinhua news agency said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong lodged a formal diplomatic protest of Mr. Chen´s visit, which ended yesterday, with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Coincidentally, yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Tibet signing the "17-point agreement" which dictated the terms of Tibet´s "liberation" and forced integration into China.

China sealed its control over Tibet with the agreement, which was signed by representatives of the Dalai Lama in Beijing on May 23, 1951, after Tibetan forces surrendered to a superior Chinese army.

Eight years later, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India, where he repudiated the agreement and charged Tibetan officials had been coerced into signing it.

Mr. Ackerly described yesterday´s meeting as "very symbolic and wonderful for Tibetans, coming on the same day China is forcing them to celebrate their occupation."

In New York, meanwhile, Taiwan´s Mr. Chen wound up his three-day visit with a send-off by hundreds of admirers as he departed for Latin America.

Mr. Chen said that as soon as he arrived at his hotel in New York Monday night, members of Congress began calling him to arrange meetings.

Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat, was among the lawmakers who met with Mr. Chen.

"President Chen´s visit represents an incremental step forward in American-Taiwan relations," Mr. Wexler said. "Chen is committed to stability and democracy and human rights, and his next visit should be to Washington. This should not be seen as antagonistic to China. It is simply a maturing of our relationship with Taiwan."

• This story is based in part on wire service reports

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