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US delegation meets Dalai Lama, irking China

June 19, 2024

A bipartisan US Congress delegation met with the Dalai Lama in India, amid opposition from China. They also met Tibet's government-in-exile.

A handout image showing the delegation at the Dalai Lama's residence.
They are set to discuss a US bill that will pressurize China to resolve the Tibet dispute.Image: Leslie Shedd/AP/picture alliance

A delegation from the US Congress met with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama at his residence in India on Wednesday as hundreds of supporters gathered with flags of Tibet and the US.

The delegation also spoke to Tibet's government-in-exile, which China does not recognize.

The bipartisan delegation included Republican Michael McCaul and Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They are set to discuss a US bill that will pressure China to resolve the Tibet dispute, McCaul said on Tuesday. "The United States of America stands with the people of Tibet," he added.

China angered by meeting

The visit has irked China, which claims Tibet as its territory and deems the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. 

Beijing urged the delegation not to make contact with the "Dalai clique" and urged Biden not to sign the bill. "It's known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a pure religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion," said Lin Jan, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday.

The Dalai Lama, 88, fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He has sought refuge in Dharamshala, a city in India's Himachal Pradesh on the edge of the Himalayan mountains. 

According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Dalai Lama is reincarnated after his death. The question of his successor has been controversial, with China's atheist communist government saying they have the right to appoint that individual.

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New Delhi considers Tibet as part of China. Nevertheless, it hosts several Tibetans in exile.

China has consistently opposed his meeting officials of any other country. But the Dalai Lama has met several US officials, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. He did not meet Donald Trump and is yet to meet President Joe Biden.

The Dalai Lama is to travel to the US this week for medical treatment for his knees. It is unclear whether he has any official meetings on his trip.

US-China relations have thawed recently, with increased contact. However, this meeting has once again caused tensions between the two sides.

tg/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)