China has accused the US of “grossly” interfering in its internal affairs and seriously damaging relations after President Barack Obama met the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the White House.

Obama met the Nobel Prize laureate for 45 minutes on Saturday, praising him for embracing non-violence while reiterating that the United States did not support independence for Tibet.

China, which accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist who supports the use of violence to set up an independent Tibet, reacted swiftly, saying Obama’s meeting had had a “baneful” impact, and summoning a senior US diplomat to complain.

“This action is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs, hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and damages Sino-US relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement released in the early hours of Sunday.

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