The head of the Tibetan administration in exile visited the White House on Saturday for talks with American officials in response to the first such invitation in six decades, with the development coming against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and China.

The visit by Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), to the White House was described by the website run by CTA as a “historic feat”. Last month, Sangay became the first CTA chief to be invited to the state department to meet assistant secretary Robert Destro, the special coordinator for Tibetan issues.

“In the last six decades, the head of CTA was denied entry to the US State Department and White House; the logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognise the Tibetan government in exile,” a report on the website said.

“Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head,” it added.

Sangay met White House officials and the meeting “will set an optimistic tone for CTA participation with US officials and be more formalised in the coming years”, according to the report on

There was no official word from the White House on the meeting.

Earlier, Sangay met White House officials at undisclosed locations more than a dozen times in the past 10 years since he became the CTA’s president in 2011.

Earlier this week, Sangay held several virtual meetings with US officials and lawmakers. During meetings with Jim McGovern, chair of the Congressional executive commission on China, and senior Republican and Democratic staffers of the Senate foreign relations committee, Sangay discussed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 and other matters.

These developments have come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and China on key issues such as trade, human rights, Beijing’s assertive actions in the South China Sea and elsewhere and the India-China border standoff.

The Chinese government has reacted angrily to Sangay’s meetings with the American officials and called on Washington to stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and undermining the stability of Tibet.

This week, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution on the significance of advocacy for “genuine autonomy for Tibetans” and the work done by the Dalai Lama to promote global peace and harmony. The resolution, tabled by Congressman Ted Yoho, recognised the “cultural and religious significance of a genuinely autonomous Tibet” and commended the Dalai Lama for his commitment to peace and non-violence.