By Justin Sink
President Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama Friday morning at the White House, amid deepening concerns over the Chinese government's handling of religious freedoms.
"We are concerned about continuing tensions and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. "We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions."
Tensions in the region have been running high, with Tibetan rights groups and exiles accusing Beijing of suppressing human rights. According to Reuters, more than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest of Chinese rule since 2009.
In an op-ed published on a government website earlier this week, Zhu Weiqun, a Chinese official who advises parliament on ethnic and religious affairs, said the nation had "time on its side" to win over Western opinion on their treatment of Tibet.
"As China becomes more involved in international affairs, and as Tibet and Xinjiang further open to the world, more and more Westerners will have an understanding of Tibet and Xinjiang that better accords with reality," Zhu wrote according to Reuters.
"Without a doubt this will all need long-term, difficult and careful work, as well as much patience, but time is on China's side," he added.
The visit with Obama will cap a busy swing through the U.S. for the Dalai Lama. He spoke earlier Thursday to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and has plans to visit Silicon Valley for a discussion on "compassion" with the founder of Adobe Systems, according to The Wall Street Journal. He's also scheduled to speak in Minneapolis on the nature of happiness.