In his response concerning the coverage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s compassionate greeting with an Indian student, on 18th April, Richard Best, The Independent’s Managing Editor, wrote to Tsering Passang:
“I am sorry if you have been offended by our coverage – that was certainly not our intention.”
Tsering Passang was then offered to submit his Tibetan perspective on the disinformation, which The Independent published on 20th April.
Writing in The Independent, Tsering Passang, Founder and Chair of Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities, calls on the media houses to take corrective actions following their dissemination of disinformation on the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
A Tibetan perspective on the Dalai Lama and that ‘kiss’
“Western media houses, including The Independent and the BBC, must reject the dissemination of fake news in the form of a serious allegation insinuating the Dalai Lama is a “child abuser” and “paedophile”. A public apology is needed to put the record straight.
When at least 55 media houses in the UK gave coverage to a few seconds of a viral video clip on social media, did they realise that they were supporting China’s disinformation campaign against the Tibetan spiritual leader?
The few seconds of the video clip showing the Dalai Lama “kissing” a young Indian student was first posted on 8 April on a fake social media account before British media ran the story two days later. Prior to this, for the first time, Chinese authorities allowed the spread of the same video carrying the Dalai Lama’s picture freely across Chinese social media platforms including in China’s occupied Tibet for weeks. Many Tibetans were very pleased to see a glimpse of their spiritual leader’s image, which is otherwise banned in Tibet.
The original clip was from a public event with over 120 M3M Foundation students and staff, held on 28 February. The playful, compassionate greeting between the Dalai Lama and the Indian student happened in the presence of his parents. The student asked the Dalai Lama for a “hug” during a Q&A session. The boy’s mother, Dr Payal Kanodia, who is the chairperson and trustee of the M3M Foundation, said afterwards: “We’re totally totally blessed to have got these blessings from His Holiness.”
The pure unadulterated acts of love, faith, and compassion by the Tibetan spiritual leader should not be compared to child abuse scandals as have happened in the churches of the UK, the US and beyond. In this instance, the two first exchanged “Oo-thuk” – foreheads touching – that represents pure love, respect in Tibetan culture. Then a “po” – a kiss on the lips, which is common in our culture until one superimposes one’s own hypersexualised views. As the Dalai Lama had nothing more to offer, he said “suck my tongue” – another translation would be “eat my tongue” (nge che le sa). Such a common, playful refrain by Tibetan elders is innocent-sounding in Tibetan, but not so when translated into English.
Genuine coverage of the Dalai Lama’s lifelong commitment to peace would be beneficial. We must not forget the nearly one million children in Tibet, who from the age of 4 to 18 are being forced into China’s colonial-style boarding schools with a long-term strategy of annihilating Tibetan identity, language and culture. Tibet is still under the illegal occupation by China, and a gross violation of human rights, including freedom of speech, is taking place.”
This Letter to The Independent by Tsering Passang, Founder and Chair of Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities, human rights activist and former Chair of Tibetan Community UK, was published on 20th April 2023.