WHAT: A top Chinese communist official said during a news conference Tuesday that any meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama would “seriously undermine” Sino-U.S. relations. After a 50-year standoff, Beijing still refuses to discuss any changes in Tibet’s political status.
WHAT’S GOING ON: China insists Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries. Many Tibetans say the region functioned independently through most of its history, and the exiled Dalai Lama is their rightful leader. The two sides have not even held full-scale talks since 2008, after fed-up Tibetans erupted in deadly anti-Chinese riots that shocked Beijing’s leaders.
THE STICKING POINT: Beijing says the Dalai Lama wants to destroy China’s sovereignty by gaining Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama has consistently countered that he wants meaningful autonomy, not independence, so Tibetans can freely practice their culture, language and religion.