Tibetan political leader visits White House for first time in six decades

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: China showcases poverty reduction on government tour of Tibet

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile visited the United States White House for the first time in six decades, a move that may further infuriate Beijing, which accused the United States of attempting to destabilize the region.

Lobsan Sangay, chairman of the Tibetan Central Administration (CTA), was invited to the White House to meet with the new US special coordinator for Tibetan issues, Robert Destro, on Friday, CTA said in a press release.

“This unprecedented meeting will perhaps set an optimistic tone for CTA’s engagement with US officials and will be more formalized in the years to come,” said CTA, based in Dharamshalah, India.

Tibet has become one of the areas of contention between the United States and China, with relations between the world’s two largest economies at their lowest point in decades.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Beijing in July of violating Tibetan human rights and said Washington supports “significant autonomy” for the region.

Beijing officials have since accused the United States of using Tibet to try to promote “splittism” in China. China has also refused to engage with Destro.

China took control of Tibet in 1950 in what it described as a “peaceful liberation” that helped it shed its “feudal past”, but critics led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, say Beijing’s rule amounts to “cultural genocide.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in August that China must build an “impregnable fortress” in Tibet in order to protect national unity.

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