Oct. 9, 2009 09:26 PM
BEIJING - China accused the United States on Friday of meddling in its domestic affairs after American lawmakers recognized the Dalai Lama with an award for his efforts to improve human rights.
The U.S. Congress presented the award, which was in honor of the late U.S. human rights activist Tom Lantos, to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Tuesday.
China reviles the Dalai Lama and has pressured foreign governments not to meet with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
"We urge some members of the U.S. Congress to respect the history and the facts, recognize the true face of Dalai Lama, stop using the Tibet issue to interfere in China's internal affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement posted on the ministry's Web site.
The criticism comes even though President Barack Obama did not meet the Dalai Lama during the trip. Obama said he would not meet the spiritual leader until after he visits President Hu Jintao in November.
The Lantos Foundation president, Katrina Lantos Swett, called China's criticism unwarranted and commended members of Congress for supporting the Dalai Lama.
"The Dalai Lama is one of the most highly honored peacemakers of all time, and we are proud to present His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the inaugural Lantos Human Rights Prize," Swett said in a statement. "We can only hope that this award brings into public light the continuing human rights violations in Tibet, so that they can be addressed."
The Obama administration, which needs Chinese support for crucial foreign policy, economic and environmental goals, must balance efforts to establish friendly ties with China with the desire to support the Dalai Lama, who has called for more autonomy for Tibetans.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for four centuries, and it has aggressively governed the Himalayan region since communist troops took control there in 1951. Many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of their history and say Chinese rule and economic exploitation are eroding their traditional Buddhist culture.