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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
China anger over US visits
Dalai Lama outside the US State Department
Dalai Lama called Powell "genuine, human, warm"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has met the Dalai Lama, prompting China - which controls his native Tibet - to accuse the US of "rude interference" in its affairs.

Beijing has also been angered by a stopover in the US by President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

Recently [the US] has endlessly interfered in China's internal affairs and hurt China's interests

Zhu Bangzao, Foreign Ministry spokesman
"China has always opposed all forms of official contacts with Taiwan by countries with which we have diplomatic relations," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao.

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington says that it appears the Bush administration is going to follow much the same Tibet policy as Bill Clinton - pressing Beijing to end human rights abuses in Tibet and talk directly to the Dalai Lama, but not advocating Tibetan independence.

However, US relations with China as a whole have come under great strain since Mr Bush took power.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian in New York
Mr Chen's visit to New York is unprecedented
Washington's new special co-ordinator for Tibetan affairs, Paula Dobriansky, also met the Dalai Lama; her appointment this week - as the highest-ranking official to take the post - also provoked an sharp response from China.

The Dalai Lama is due to meet President George W Bush on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of China's takeover of Tibet.

Beijing is marking the day with a ceremony attended by 5,000 people including government leaders outside the Potala Palace, the traditional seat of the Dalai Lamas in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

'Respected religious leader'

Senior US officials say the Dalai Lama is being received "in his capacity as a respected religious figure", not as a political leader.

But it is difficult to separate the two roles in practice, as he is also a vocal advocate of Tibetan rights.

Although he does not seek separation of the Himalayan territory from China, he does argue for greater cultural and religious freedom.

After his meeting, the Lama told reporters Mr Powell had shown "genuine, human, warm feeling," like his predecessor Madeleine Albright.

The BBC's Beijing correspondent, Rupert Wingfield Hayes, says the simultaneous visits by the Dalai Lama and President Chen - two of China's least favourite people - add to the perception that the US is more interested in encouraging China's enemies than fostering better ties with Beijing.

US President George W Bush
Mr Bush has promised to defend Taiwan
The US State Department said Taiwanese President Chen's visit should not have an impact on Washington's ties with China.

His stopover on his way to Latin America is not an official visit, but it has had many of the trappings of one.

On Tuesday, Mr Chen met the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, held further discussions with US congressmen and visited the New York Stock Exchange.

Beijing opposes such trips because of fears that they could drum up support for Taiwanese independence - China sees Taiwan as a province lost during its civil war in 1949 and seeks to recover the island.

Policy U-turn

The Bush administration's decision to allow the visit - in effect a reversal of long-standing US policy - underlines its support for Taiwan in the face of criticism from China.

Many Taiwanese-Americans support the change of climate in relations.

"He's the president of a nation. He should be able to visit this country and be treated as the head of a nation," said one supporter, Wendy Chern.

But not all were happy to see Mr Chen. A group of about 100 pro-Beijing protesters demonstrated near his hotel, shouting: "Unification, yes - separation, no."

The BBC's Richard Lister
"The Dalai Lama is amongst friends in Washington"
The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai
"China is hailing an anniversary which it believes conveys legitimacy on its rule"
US congressman Chris Smith
"There is nothing about this that is provocative"
Migyur Dorje, Dalai Lama's spokesman
"We believe it is support the truth"

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See also:

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11 Mar 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
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