Nancy Pelosi meets with Dalai Lama in latest move expected to anger China

The former speaker had previously enraged Beijing by visiting Taiwan

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 19 June 2024 14:30 BST
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Nancy Pelosi meets Dalai Lama in India amid fury from Communist China

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Nancy Pelosi met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in India on Wednesday in a move that is expected to anger China.

The former speaker, along with a bipartisan delegation of seven lawmakers, traveled on Tuesday to Dharamshala, a Himalayan town in northern India where the Dalai Lama, 88, has lived in exile since fleeing China in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, to meet with the spiritual leader.

The meeting came as Joe Biden prepares to sign a bill pressuring Beijing to resolve tensions with Tibet and protect the region’s native Buddhist culture.

“This bill says to the Chinese government: things have changed now, get ready for that,” Pelosi said.

“It is still my hope that one day the Dalai Lama and his people will return to Tibet in peace,” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who led the delegation, added after the meeting.

The bill, passed by Congress last week, presses Beijing to resume negotiations with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders that have been frozen since 2010, and to address Tibetan people’s concerns about their cultural, religious and linguistic autonomy.

Nancy Pelosi meets with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in India
Nancy Pelosi meets with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in India (Dalai Lama/ Instagram)

China governs most of Tibet, which it claims has been part of the country since ancient times. Although the US recognizes Tibet as part of China, the Dalai Lama had met with every US president up until Donald Trump. Joe Biden has not met with the Dalai Lama.

During the meeting, lawmakers presented the spiritual leader with a framed copy of the “Resolve Tibet Act” which condemns “all oppression and coercion of Tibetans” and affirms their right to self determination.

Wednesday’s meeting came at a time when the US is trying to improve its relations with China following the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the move will anger China, which sees the Dalai Lama as an anti-China “separatist” – an accusation he denies. China also opposes any contact with the 1989 Nobel Peace laureate by foreign officials.

A group of seven bipartisan US lawmakers made the trip
A group of seven bipartisan US lawmakers made the trip (AP)

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that affairs related to Tibet were an internal Chinese matter and that China would take “resolute measures” to defend its sovereignty, security and development interests.

The ministry also urged the US not to sign the bill into law. “We urge the US side to adhere to its commitments of recognizing Tibet as part of China and not supporting ‘Tibet independence,’” spokesperson Lin Jian said at a regular news briefing in Beijing. “The US must not sign the bill into law.”

Washington’s relations with Beijing first began to deteriorate when then-president Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese goods.

Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in 2022, prompting China to encircle the island with live-fire military drills after she left. Taiwan, a democracy with more than 20 million inhabitants, has been independent since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 but is claimed by the People’s Republic of China.

Since coming to power, Joe Biden has taken a more cautious approach to US-Chinese relations, making efforts to improve relations with Beijing.

Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly asked the US not to interfere with Tibetan affairs and argues that the people of Tibet have enjoyed social stability and economic growth under its rule.

The Dalai Lama is expected to travel to the United States on Thursday for medical treatment for his knees, but it is unclear if he will meet any officials while there.

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