China denounces U.S. Congress for hosting Tibet's leader-in-exile

FILE PHOTO: Penpa Tsering, president-elect of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), speaks during a video interview with Reuters, in Dharamshala
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China accused the U.S. Congress of interfering in its internal affairs on Wednesday by virtually hosting the head of an India-based organization known as Tibet's government-in-exile to speak at a hearing earlier this week.

Penpa Tsering, known as the Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), spoke to the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China via video link on Tuesday and said Tibet was dying a "slow death" under Chinese rule.

Responding to a request for comment, the spokesperson for China's embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, said: "The so-called 'Tibetan government-in-exile' is an out-and-out separatist political group and an illegal organization in total violation of China’s Constitution and laws."

Liu said the organization had long been attempting to split Tibet from China.

"The invitation for the 'Sikyong' to speak at the Congress was an interference in China’s internal affairs. China is firmly opposed to this," he said in an emailed statement.

"The U.S. should take concrete actions to honor its commitment of acknowledging Tibet as part of China, and stop meddling in China’s internal affairs."

Tuesday's address was the first to Congress by the Sikyong, a leadership role created in 2012 after the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' 87-year-old spiritual leader, relinquished political authority in favor of an organization that could outlive him.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting separatism in Tibet and it does not recognize the CTA, which represents about 100,000 exiled Tibetans living in around 30 countries including India, Nepal, Canada and the United States.

China has ruled Tibet since 1951, after its military marched in and took control in what it calls a peaceful liberation. China says its intervention ended "backward feudal serfdom" and denied wrongdoing.

U.S.-China relations are at what some experts see as their worst level since normalization of ties in the 1970s. Washington has further angered Beijing this week by allowing stopover visits by President Tsai Ing-wen of Chinese-claimed Taiwan, who was due to arrive in New York on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Howard Goller)