Risking the wrath of China, the US is due to honour the exiled Tibetan spirtual leader with a Congressional Gold Medal.
Yesterday the Dalai Lama spoke with George W Bush. The pair have met before in private but Bush will attend today’s award ceremony, becoming the first sitting US president to appear in public with the Dalai Lama.
Returning to his hotel, a smiling Dalai Lama said: “We know each other and we have developed some kind of, I think, very close friendship. Therefore something like a reunion of one family, like that. I really feel like that. Naturally he is showing his concern about Tibet and he inquired about the situtation and then accordingly I explained.”
Beijing has bitterly denounced plans to give the Dalai Lama the medal, the country’s highest civilian award. Despite his Nobel Peace Prize, he is regarded by Chinese authorities as a separatist and a traitor.
Tibet’s Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, said: “We feel very upset by this. This is a brutal interference in China’s internal affairs. We express our firm opposition and grave objections.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said if the decision to honour the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India for decades, was not reversed it would have an “extremely serious impact” on bilateral relations.