Michelle Obama's China trip takes on Tibetan theme

AP News
Posted: Mar 26, 2014 4:49 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Michelle Obama ended her weeklong trip to China on Wednesday with a Tibetan theme, having lunch in a Tibetan restaurant, meeting students who presented her with a Tibetan silk scarf and tapping Tibetan prayer wheels.

Her staff said the restaurant choice in Chengdu city in southwest Sichuan province, which borders the Tibetan region, was in accordance with the American first lady's interest in the rights of minorities in China.

The rights of Tibetans is a touchy one between the Chinese and U.S. governments.

More than 100 people have self-immolated in ethnic Tibetan areas, including parts of Sichuan, since 2009 to protest Chinese restrictions on Buddhism and the denigration of the Tibetans' spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama last month over the objections of Beijing, which reviles him as a separatist.

As Mrs. Obama entered the Zangxiang Teahouse in Chengdu she tapped 11 metal prayer wheels that lined an entry bridge to the restaurant. Mrs. Obama, her mother and two daughters were greeted by a small group of students who presented the four with traditional Tibetan ceremonial long white scarfs.

On Wednesday morning, the family visited pandas at the Chengdu Panda Base. They will return to the U.S. later Wednesday.