Dalai Lama's Defenders Blame China for 'Tongue' Flap

Top Tibetan official sees interaction with boy as innocent, suspects Beijing of viral campaign
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2023 7:07 AM CDT
Dalai Lama's Defenders Speak Out After Video
The Dalai Lama touches foreheads with a young boy before addressing a group of students at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamshala, India, Feb. 28, 2023. The spiritual leader has apologized for the interaction.   (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

Earlier this week, the Dalai Lama made headlines for the wrong reasons—his office apologized after a video showed the Tibetan spiritual leader asking a boy to suck his tongue during a public greeting in India. Now, the leader of Tibet's government-in-exile is backing the explanation that the greeting was playfully innocent—and further accusing China of orchestrating a smear campaign. The video shows the 87-year-old's "grandfatherly affectionate demeanor,” says Penpa Tsering, per Reuters. He added that after a life of celibacy, the Dalia Lama is “beyond the sensorial pleasures," per the BBC.

Tsering suggested it was fishy that the video suddenly went viral on social media weeks after the incident unfolded in India, and he said an investigation pointed to “pro-Chinese sources.” He presented no evidence but said "the political angle of this incident cannot be ignored.” Vice talks to Tsering Kyi, a US-based Tibetan journalist, who also thinks the video is being misinterpreted and sees China's handiwork at play. “I still remember when the great Christian spiritual leader, Desmond Tutu, visited the Dalai Lama in India, and they hugged and kissed like two pure kids,” she said. “It was a beautiful display of love, but some people with dirty minds interpreted it as something else back then, too.” (See an image of that greeting here.)

The Dalai Lama's worst critics have said the video with the boy smacks of abuse and maybe even pedophilia, though Vice also offers the context of how Tibetans sometimes stick their tongues out in greeting. Still, that explanation was not satisfying everyone. “Some news refers to Tibetan culture about showing tongue, but this video is certainly not about any cultural expression and even if it is, such cultural expressions are not acceptable," the Delhi-based child rights group, Haq: Center for Child Rights, told CNN. (More Dalai Lama stories.)

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