• Thursday, July 25, 2024


China fumes as US lawmakers meet Dalai Lama in India

Influential US lawmakers hold talks with Dalai Lama in India

Nancy Pelosi (L), former speaker of the US House of Representatives and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama greet each other at his residence in Mcleodganj, Kangra in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh on June 19, 2024. (ANI Photo)

By: Pramod Thomas

A GROUP of senior US lawmakers including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi met Wednesday (19) with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, drawing China’s ire.

The bipartisan group of US lawmakers, led by Congressman Michael McCaul and Pelosi, visited the 88-year-old Buddhist spiritual leader at his home base in the northern Indian hill-town of Dharamsala.

China, which maintains Tibet is part of its territory, denounced “external interference” and said that matters in the Himalayan territory were “purely China’s domestic affairs.”

Pelosi told crowds of Tibetans it was an “honour” to have met with the Dalai Lama, in a speech carried by the government-in-exile’s Tibet TV.

“It is truly a blessing”, she said.

The visit follows the passage of a bill by the US Congress that seeks to encourage China to hold talks with Tibetan leaders, frozen since 2010, and also as Washington seeks to ease tensions with Beijing.

“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.

“It says to the Chinese government: ‘Things have changed now, get ready for that”, she added.

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

China fumes as US lawmakers meet Dalai Lama in India
Tibetans take part in a function during the bipartisan US congressional delegation visit at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India, June 19, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

Ahead of the visit, China’s embassy in New Delhi criticised the meeting, saying 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 fear Beijing will name a rival successor to the Dalai Lama, bolstering control over a land it poured troops into in 1950.

The Dalai Lama was just 23 when he escaped the Tibetan capital Lhasa in fear for his life after Chinese soldiers eviscerated an uprising, crossing the snowy Himalayas into India.

“The whole world, we are same human beings, we all have same right — and this world belongs to humanity,” the Dalai Lama told the delegates, dressed in flowing red robes and draped in a yellow wrap.

“We should take care of this world,” he added, in a video broadcast by the exiled government.

“People of the world should be peaceful, happy,” he said.

He stepped down as his people’s political head in 2011, passing the baton of secular power to a government chosen democratically by some 130,000 Tibetans around the world.

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 Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian 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,” he said, reiterating Beijing’s oft-repeated position that the high-altitude territory “has always been part” of China.

“The US must not sign the bill into law,” Lin added. “China will take resolute measures to firmly defend its sovereignty, security and development interests.”


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