US Lawmakers’ Visit To Dalai Lama Sparks China Criticism

Senior US lawmakers, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, met with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile in India on Wednesday, drawing strong criticism from China.

The bipartisan party of US politicians, led by Congressman Michael McCaul and Pelosi, paid a visit to the 88-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader at his home base in Dharamsala, a hill town in northern India.

In an address broadcast on the government-in-exile’s Tibet TV, Pelosi told a crowd of Tibetans that seeing the Dalai Lama was a “honour.”

“It is truly a blessing”, Pelosi said.

The visit follows the passage of a bill by the US Congress that seeks to encourage Beijing to hold talks with Tibetan leaders — frozen since 2010.

“This bill is a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and understanding in the issue of the freedom of Tibet”, she said.

Pelosi said the bill was “soon to be signed” by US President Joe Biden.

Prior to the visit, China’s embassy in New Delhi criticized the meeting, claiming that the Dalai Lama was “not a pure religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion”.

Many exiled Tibetans are concerned that Beijing may appoint a competing successor to the Dalai Lama, so consolidating control over a territory into which it poured troops in 1950.

The Dalai Lama was only 23 years old when he fled Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, in fear for his life after Chinese soldiers crushed an uprising against Beijing’s forces, crossing the steep Himalayas into India.

He stood down as his people’s political leader in 2011, handing up secular power to a democratically elected government of around 130,000 Tibetans worldwide.

“The democracy of the diaspora of the Tibetans in exile is very important to us,” Pelosi said.

Penpa Tsering, the sikyong or head of that government, said it does not seek full independence for Tibet, but rather to pursue a long-standing “Middle Way” policy seeking greater autonomy and “to resolve the Sino-Tibet conflict through dialogue”.

But Beijing’s embassy accused the Tibetan administration of seeking to break away.

“We urge the US side to fully recognise the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai group,” the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India wrote on social media late Tuesday.

It reiterated its oft-repeated position that the high-altitude territory “has always been part of China since ancient times.”

Leave a Reply