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Outrage! Dalai Lama still faces criticism after apology for ‘sucking my tongue’

Recently, a video of the Dalai Lama kissing a boy and asking him to suck his tongue goes viral on the Internet. It records a public event of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Dharamsala at the end of February this year. In the video, the 87-year-old Dalai Lama was hugging a young boy and guiding him to kiss him on the cheek. After the first kiss on the cheek, the Dalai Lama kept holding the boy, saying “I think here also” and pulled the boy’s chin towards him and kissed him on the lips. The Dalai Lama then said, “and suck my tongue”, extending out his tongue, forehead to forehead with the young kid which arouse controversy.

The video was immediately criticized and viewed by millions of people online who were shocked by the Dalai Lama’s actions, calling it “sick” and “pedophilic”. Some media pointed out that in Tibetan traditional culture, the “tongue sticking ceremony” is one of the ways of expressing the highest respect to the other party. In response to the incident, prominent Delhi-based child rights group, Haq: Center for Child Rights, told CNN in a statement it condemns “all form of child abuse”. “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,” Haq states.

The Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamsala issued a statement on Monday (April 10) apologizing for the latest activity. The statement only explained that the boy asked for a hug, not mentioning the words of the Dalai Lama. It says, “His Holiness wished to apologize to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused. His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident.” The statement was once again criticized by the outside world, angrily saying that “he should be investigated, the whole incident is very uncomfortable”, “the spiritual leader has made uncomfortable behavior, the Dalai Lama must be investigated, he can do it in public This kind of thing, you have no idea what he will do in private.”

The holiest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso has been in exile in India since 1959, when Tibet was annexed by China. In India, he was given permission to establish a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, and in 1989, when he was 54 years old, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When he turns 90, he is expected to announce his successor.

Previously, he was involved in a speech scandal in 2019. In a BBC interview, “If a female Dalai Lama comes, she should be more attractive,” he said in English while laughing. Shortly after, he also made a formal apology for his statements. His office later said he was sorry that someone had been hurt. The Dalai Lama “has a keen sense of the contradictions between the materialistic, globalized world he encounters on his travels and the complex, more esoteric ideas about reincarnation that are at the heart of Tibetan Buddhist tradition”, the statement said and indicated the Dalai Lama was only making a joke. “However, it sometimes happens that off the cuff remarks, which might be amusing in one cultural context, lose their humour in translation when brought into another. He regrets any offence that may have been given.” Netizens expressed their displeasure with his claim that the Dalai Lama always used “making a joke” as an explanation, along with his apology for “kissing the kid” controversy this time.

The Dalai Lama has also drawn criticism for public remarks in 2018, after large numbers of refugees had traveled to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East. In a speech that year, he said that refugees going to the Europe should eventually return home, “Europe belongs to Europeans.” He later told the BBC, “European countries should accept these refugees and give them education and training. The aim is for them to return to their own land with a certain skill.”

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