The president of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Lobsang Sangay was invited to the White House, a rare visit by the head of the Tibetan administration, amid heightened tensions between China and the US over a host of issues including trade imbalance 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 that seems to have taken place overnight Saturday was the first in the past six decades.
“In the last six decades, the head of CTA was denied entry to the US State Department and White House; the logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognize the Tibetan government in exile. Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head,” the web site said.
It said that Sangay met White House officials during his visit overnight Saturday but did not mention any names of the officials he met with.
Sangay has met White House officials previously too but in undisclosed meetings at unknown locations over a dozen times in the past 10 years since he became the CTA’s head in 2011.
“This unprecedented meeting perhaps will set an optimistic tone for CTA participation with US officials and be more formalized in the coming years,” the website added.
There was no immediate readout of Sangay’s meetings from the White House.
The development comes amid tensions between the US and China on a host of issues including trade, human rights, frictions between China and its neighbours and the perception that Beijing did not do much to control the spread of the covid-19 pandemic across the globe. Many in the US including president Donald Trump and officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have dubbed the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes covid-19 as the China or Wuhan virus. Wuhan was where the virus first surfaced late last year.
Last month, Sangay had also met the newly appointed Assistant Secretary and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Robert Destro at the US State Department.
China had then hit back calling the appointment an attempt to interfere in China’s domestic affairs. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the appointment is a case of political manipulation. “Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. The setting up of the so-called coordinator for Tibetan issues is entirely out of political manipulation to interfere in China’s internal affairs and destabilize Tibet. China firmly opposes that,” Zhao told reporters according to media reports.
Sangay, the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans live in exile in India. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Beijing, is based in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.