The Dalai Lama has appeared at a Geneva human rights conference, despite China's plea to diplomats to stay away from his appearance.

Diplomats say China's U.N. mission in Geneva circulated a letter to other missions this week requesting them to avoid the Tibetan spiritual leader's appearance at a conference built around Nobel peace prize winners and co-sponsored by the United States and Canada.

Hundreds of supporters of the Dalai Lama, some waving Tibetan flags, rallied at the giant three-legged chair landmark outside the U.N. as he attended the packed-house conference nearby at Geneva's Graduate Institute. The number of diplomats in the throng was unclear.

On Thursday, the U.S. and 11 other Western countries expressed concerns about human rights in China at the Human Rights Council.