News and Views on Tibet

Dalai Lama to visit the United States for knee treatment

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Photo/Vanity Fair)

By Tsering Dhundup

DHARAMSHALA, June 3: The Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, is set to travel to the United States later this month for medical treatment on his knees, his office said Monday.

A statement on his official website  and social media handle read, “This is to inform all concerned that no engagements, including public audiences, will be scheduled from June 20 onwards until further notice. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to the United States for medical treatment on his knees.”

This trip marks the Dalai Lama’s first visit to the United States since June 2017. During his last visit, apart from fulfilling public engagements, he attended a routine annual medical check-up at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York.

The news of his medical visit also brings to light the complex geopolitical posturing associated with the Dalai Lama. In September 2020, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged to meet the Dalai Lama, emphasizing a commitment to human rights and values he argued were neglected by his predecessor, Donald Trump. To act on his promise, he said, he would do something Donald Trump haven’t done. “I’ll meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Biden said. However, more than three years into his presidency, Biden has yet to fulfil this promise.

Engaging with the Dalai Lama has historically been a sensitive issue for American presidents, given the strong opposition from Beijing. The Chinese government views Tibet as an integral part of China and perceives any recognition of the Dalai Lama as an affront to Chinese sovereignty. The Dalai Lama is not only a religious leader but also a symbol of Tibetan autonomy and resilience, making any diplomatic interactions with him particularly contentious.

The United States has been an active supporter of Tibet, providing funding to the Tibetan Government in Exile and passing laws to aid the Tibetan cause. Last month, the United States Senate and, in February, the US House of Representatives passed the bipartisan ‘Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Dispute Act.’

The Resolve Tibet Act addresses Tibet’s political status and holds China accountable for infringing upon the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination. It challenges China’s narrative that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times. The bill also states that Tibet includes not only the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (TAR) but also Tibetan-inhabited areas of Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Yunnan. Additionally, and in direct relation to octogenarian Tibetan leader, the legislation criticizes China for refusing to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and urged the resumption of dialogue to resolve the Tibetan conflict.

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