The US has appreciated India’s “extraordinary generosity” for supporting the Tibetan people’s religious freedom while rejecting as “meritless” China’s claim that the Dalai Lama’s succession must comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback met the Dalai Lama in Dharmshala on Monday. Mr Brownback hit out at what he called China’s “persecution” of the Tibetan people’s faith and said they have the right to choose their own religious leaders.

Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asia, said Mr Brownback’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala emphasised the enduring US support for the Tibetan people.

“India has greatly supported Tibetan religious freedom, and the US stands in deep admiration of India’s extraordinary generosity,” Ms Wells tweeted.

“The Chinese Communist Party claim that Dalai Lama’s succession ”must comply with Chinese laws and regulations” is meritless, she said.

“Tibetan communities, like all faith communities, should be able to select, educate, and venerate their religious leaders without government interference,” she added.

Concerns over the health of 84-year-old Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India following a failed 1959 Tibetan revolt against the Chinese rule, have renewed uncertainties over his possible successor after his demise.

China claims control over the selection, asserting that the successor to the Dalai Lama has to be endorsed by it.

In recent months, the Trump administration has stepped up pressure on China to relax controls over Tibet. In May this year, China has rejected US envoy to Beijing, Terry Branstad’s call to hold unconditional dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

Asked about Mr Brownback’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the media in Beijing on Tuesday that the envoy’s comments amounted to interference in China’s internal affairs.

“The 14th Dalai Lama is in political exile who has long been carrying out anti-China activities overseas under the pretext of religion,” Mr Geng said.

“China firmly opposes any contact with the Dalai Lama by any foreign official. The words and deeds of a certain US official violates US commitment to recognise Tibet as part of China, and not to support Tibetan independence. China firmly opposes such words and deeds,” he said.