Washington: President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Lobsang Sangay, was invited to the White House for a rare visit by the head of the Tibetan administration, in the midst of heightened tensions between China and the US over a host of issues, including trade imbalances and the spread of covid-19.
According to the Tibet.net website run by the Tibetan community in exile, Sangay’s visit to the White House, which seems to have taken place overnight on Saturday, was the first in the last six decades.
“In the last six decades, the head of the CTA has been refused admission to the U.S. State Department and the White House; the rationale of both denials was that the U.S. government does not recognise the Tibetan government in exile. Today’s visit is a celebration of both the democratic structure of the CTA and its political chief,” said the website.
It was said that Sangay had met with White House officials during his visit Saturday night, but he did not mention any names of the officials he had met.
Sangay has met officials of the White House since, albeit in unrevealed meetings at undisclosed locations about a dozen times in the last 10 years since he became president of the CTA in 2011.
“This unprecedented meeting may set an optimistic tone for CTA participation with US officials and will be more formalised in the coming years,” the website added.
There was no immediate reading of the White House meetings of Sangay.
Development is taking place in the midst of tensions between the US and China over a host of concerns, including trade, human rights, conflict between China and its neighbours, and the perception that Beijing has not done anything to contain the spread of the covid-19 pandemic across the globe.
Many in the US including President Donald Trump and officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have dubbed the SARS-CoV2 virus that triggers covid-19 viruses like China or Wuhan. Wuhan was the location where the virus first surfaced late last year.
Last month, Sangay also met Robert Destro, the newly named Assistant Secretary and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, at the US State Department.
China then hit back calling the appointment an attempt to intervene in China’s domestic affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the appointment was a case of political manipulation. “Tibet affairs are the internal affairs of China that do not allow foreign intervention. The creation of a so-called coordinator for Tibetan issues is entirely out of political manipulation to intervene in China’s internal affairs and to destabilise Tibet. China is strongly opposed to this,” Zhao said to reporters according to media reports.
Sangay, the Tibetan spiritual leader of the Dalai Lama, and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans live in exile in India. The Dalai Lama, who left Tibet in 1959 following a failed rebellion against Beijing, is based in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.