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China angry at Dalai Lama's US meeting

BEIJING -- China expressed anger Friday over the Dalai Lama's meeting with U.S. congressional leaders, urging Washington to “stop conniving” with the man it brands a separatist working under the “cloak of religion.”

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Thursday delivered the customary prayer that opens each Senate session, after meeting President Barack Obama at the White House last month, a move that raised the ire of Beijing.

The Nobel laureate, who fled his Chinese-ruled homeland for India in 1959, labeled the U.S. the “champion of democracy” and called on it to show “self-confidence.”

He met congressional leaders and told them one of his main goals was the “preservation of Tibetan culture.”

Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China expressed “strong opposition and firm opposition” to the meeting and had “launched solemn representations with the U.S.”

“He is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-Chinese separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” the spokesman told reporters at a regular briefing.

“China urges the U.S. Congress to abide by its commitment of recognizing Tibet as a part of China, not supporting Tibetan independence, stop interfering in China's domestic affairs with Tibet-related affairs, stop conniving and supporting the anti-China separatist activities by Tibetan independence forces.”

Obama called for the protection of Tibetans' rights in a statement after his meeting with the Dalai Lama.

More than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in recent years to protest against what they describe as stifling Chinese control over their religious, cultural and political freedoms.

Beijing condemns the acts and blames them on the exiled Tibetan leader, saying he uses them to further a separatist agenda.

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