The White House has defended U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting last Saturday with Tibetan spritual leader the Dalai Lama, after an official protest from China.

Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday that the president’s meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House was an expression of Mr. Obama’s support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique tradition and the rights of the Tibetan people.

Carney stressed there has been no change in the official U.S. position that Tibet is a part of China.

Beijing lodged a formal protest Sunday with the U.S. embassy. The Chinese government routinely protests the Dalai Lama’s meetings with international leaders, claiming that he is seeking independence for his homeland.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry characterized Saturday’s meeting in Washington as an act “that has grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs” and “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” It also demanded that Washington stop supporting “anti-China separatist forces” seeking Tibetan independence.

The Nobel laureate denies Beijing’s allegations and says he only wants cultural and religious autonomy for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama was wrapping up his two-week U.S. visit with a speech in Chicago about religious intolerance. He also participated in a panel discussion with U.S. Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders.

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