US lawmakers’ visit to Dalai Lama sparks criticism from China

Published June 20, 2024
FORMER US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House foreign affairs committee, attends a function at the Dalai Lama’s temple in Dharamshala after meeting him, 
on Wednesday.—Reuters
FORMER US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House foreign affairs committee, attends a function at the Dalai Lama’s temple in Dharamshala after meeting him, on Wednesday.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: A group of senior US lawmakers including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi met on Wednesday with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, sparking heavy criticism from China.

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.

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 land it poured troops into in 1950.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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