The Dalai Lama has apologized after video surfaced showing him kissing a boy on the lips and then asking him to “suck his tongue” at an event in northern India.
In a statement Monday, the Dalai Lama’s office said it “wishes to apologize to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends around the world, for the harm his words may have caused,” adding that it “regrets ” the incident.
“His Holiness often makes fun of people he knows in an innocent and playful way, including in public and on camera,” the statement said.
His apology comes hours after a video of the exchange, which took place during an event in February, went viral, sparking outrage on social media.
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The exchange has sparked protests, with users criticizing the Dalai Lama’s actions.
In the video, the boy can be seen approaching the Dalai Lama and asking, “Can I hug you?”
The 87-year-old spiritual leader invites the boy up on stage and points to his cheek and says, “Here first,” prompting the boy to give him a hug and a kiss.
The Dalai Lama then points to his lips and says, “Then I think finally here too.” He then pulls on the boy’s chin and kisses him on the mouth.
“And suck my tongue,” he says after a few seconds, sticking out his tongue.
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The identity of the child is unknown. He was at an event with the M3M Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Indian real estate company M3M Group, based in Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in permanent exile. has reached out to the M3M Foundation for comment.
The Delhi-based child rights group Haq: Center for Child Rights told in a statement that it condemns “all forms 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,” the statement continued.
He added: “The world looks up to religious leaders to take a stand and lead against the exploitation and abuse of children through their actions and words.”