BEIJING, July 18 (UPI) -- Beijing has called U.S. President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama "gross interference in the internal affairs of China" and supports separatist forces in Tibet.
The 45-minute meeting, which took place on Saturday at the White House, also "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and damages Sino-U.S. relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Beijing Robert Wang to lodge a formal complaint, the national news agency Xinhua said.
Neither Obama nor the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, made any statement about the meeting, which was called "private."
The Dalai Lama celebrated his 76th birthday in Washington this month with a Buddhist ritual called "Turning of the Wheel of Time."
"The president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences," a White House statement in advance of the meeting said.
Before the meeting, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing reiterated its continuing opposition to the meeting.
"The issue regarding Tibet concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and we firmly oppose any foreign official to meet with the Dalai Lama in any form," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told Xinhua.
"We request the United States to honor its commitment that recognizes Tibet as part of China and opposes Tibet independence (and) to immediately withdraw the decision of arranging an Obama-Dalai Lama meeting."
Ma's statement after the meeting, which was read out on national CNTV television, also said the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting "violates the norms of international relations."
The statement said both Washington and Beijing must make "concerted efforts" to maintain good relations.
Cui summoned to Wang to issue a formal complaint.
As well, in Washington, China's ambassador to the United States Zhang Yesui lodged a formal complaint to with the U.S. government over Obama's "obstinate" meeting, the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Beijing's stern condemnation comes after monthlong attack of the Dalai Lama in the Chinese media by the communist government.
In early July, The People's Daily, flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China published a commentary denouncing the Dalai Lama, saying his official retirement from the political arena "will not save the Dalai 'clique' from failure."
No matter who heads the exiled Tibetan government, its illegal nature will not be altered," the commentary said.
"For the future of Dalai Lama himself, there is no other option for him than to abandon all secessionist acts and speeches and meet the central government's demands."
The commentary also noted that this year marks "the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet."
Even though the Dalai Lama stepped down as the head of the government in exile in early May, Beijing has kept up its barrage of criticism of the globetrotting Buddhist monk.
The communist Chinese army marched into Tibet in the mid 1950s and the Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a brief uprising in 1959. He trekked across the Himalayas with around 20 government leaders and they arrived in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala where the government-in-exile remains. He was followed by about 80,000 Tibetans, many settling in the area.
The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and has become a symbol of peaceful resistance to oppression. But the Chinese government has called him "a ready puppet of the international anti-China forces."
Beijing also steadfastly refuses to meet the newly elected leader of the government-in-exile, the Harvard law Professor Lobsang Sangay. He was elected as the kalon tripa -- prime minister -- with 55 percent of the 49,000 votes cast.
Sangay, 43 and a Tibetan refuge, is a legal scholar, political activist and international human rights lawyer. He is a visiting Research Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.