Pelosi takes aim at China’s Xi Jinping during trip to meet Dalai Lama

Former US House speaker acknowledges remarks would offend the Chinese authorities

Nancy Pelosi was speaking in Dharamshala in northern India after meeting the Dalai Lama with a number of other US legislators. Photograph: Ashwini Bhatia/AP

Former US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi has launched an attack on China’s leader Xi Jinping, saying he will be gone in a few years while the legacy of the Dalai Lama will live on.

Ms Pelosi was speaking in Dharamshala in northern India after meeting the Dalai Lama with a number of other US legislators.

“His holiness Dalai Lama, with his message of knowledge, tradition, compassion, purity of soul, and love, will live a long time and his legacy will live forever. But you, the president of China, you’ll be gone and nobody will give you credit for anything,” Ms Pelosi said.

In August 2022, Ms Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan prompted Beijing to stage aggressive military exercises around the self-governing island and to suspend co-operation with Washington for months.


The Democratic politician acknowledged on Wednesday that her remarks would offend the Chinese authorities, who view the Dalai Lama as a Tibetan separatist.

“Dalai Lama would not approve of my saying that when I criticise the Chinese government. He says, ‘let’s pray for Nancy to rid her of her negative attitudes’,” Ms Pelosi said. “I hope he will indulge me today to say that change is on the way. As our colleagues have said, hope brings some faith and the faith of the Tibetan people in the goodness of others is what is going to make all the difference.”

China occupied Tibet, which it refers to as Xizang, in the 1950s after hundreds of years during which its territory changed hands between Chinese and local warlords.

It claims that Tibet has always been part of China and that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) freed the Tibetan people from feudalism. The Chinese authorities reject claims that its policies are suppressing Tibetan language, culture and religious identity.

EU diplomats visit schools, religious sites and prison in Tibet in dialogue with China on human rightsOpens in new window ]

Beijing this week condemned the US delegation’s visit to Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama, who has been in exile from Tibet since 1959, lives in a monastery.

“The 14th Dalai Lama is not a pure religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Chinese ministry for foreign affairs spokesman Lin Jian said.

“We are gravely concerned over the relevant reports and urge the US side to fully recognise the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai group, honour the commitments the US has made to China on issues related to Xizang, have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”

Ms Pelosi’s visit follows the passage of a Bill in the House of Representatives that would direct funds to counter what it calls disinformation from Beijing about Tibet’s history and people. The Bill, which US president Joe Biden has yet to sign into law, encourages US officials to press Beijing to negotiate with the Dalai Lama or his representatives about Tibet’s future.

A group of senior diplomats from the European External Action Service visited Tibet last week as part of the EU-China human rights dialogue. The Chinese authorities allowed them to visit the specific schools, religious sites and a prison they requested but the ministry for foreign affairs in Beijing condemned what it called the EU’s interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.

“In response to the EU’s groundless accusations against China’s judicial procedure, death penalty, labour rights and issues related to ethnic groups and regions, China laid out the facts that prove otherwise and firmly refuted these allegations,” ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

“The Chinese side pointed to the human rights issues that exist in EU countries, including racial discrimination, infringement on the rights of refugees and immigrants, restriction on freedom of speech, religious hatred, judicial unfairness and violence against women, and asked the EU side to earnestly resolve these issues.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times