Although most news about the Dalai Lama is usually censored on Chinese (social) media, the recent meeting between the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama (达赖喇嘛) and American pop star Lady Gaga (嘎嘎小姐/女神卡卡) has become a much-talked about topic on Sina Weibo.
According to the official website of the Dalai Lama, his meeting with Lady Gaga took place during a US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26. Lady Gaga reportedly interviewed the Dalai Lama for her Facebook live broadcast.
After meeting with the Dalai Lama, Lady Gaga posted on social media: “Thank you for this special day. Science tells us kindness improves health, let’s take care of the body of our nation.”
The Dalai Lama is a sensitive issue on China’s social media. After the spiritual leader fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, Beijing regards him as a separatist. Last year, a senior Communist Party official warned Tibetan cadres to “remain vigilant” of “separatist motives” of the Dalai Lama, SCMP reported.
Creative ways to refer to the Dalai Lama used by Chinese netizens to circumvent censorship include those that only use part of his name or who simply name him ‘DA’,’DL’, or ‘DA Lai Lama’ (Da赖喇嘛).
Although some English media sources claimed any mention of ‘Lady Gaga’ was now blocked from social media in China, the popular singer was still a topic of discussion on China’s Sina Weibo throughout June 28 and 29 – with some messages disappearing not long after they were posted.
Many netizens say that “Lady Gaga has officially left the Chinese market,” waving her goodbye with laughing emoticons: “She is no longer our idol – if she wants to know why, we can explain.”
“If you do stupid things, you’ll have to pay the price,” media site Purple Web writes on its Weibo account.
Many international media reported that Lady Gaga has been officially “banned” from China, based on reports by The Guardian and Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily. Chinese state media did not report an official ban of Lady Gaga.
One Weibo netizen named Tomie wrote about the meeting:
“Before when I traveled to the United States, I visited an elementary school and saw a poster of the Dalai Lama there, together with those of other great persons such as Gandhi, Marie Curie, and even Confucius. They were up there together, and above it said “Love and Peace”. In front of the Philadelphia Independence Hall, there are many photos of celebrities who took a photo there, including the Dalai Lama.
I was flabbergastered to see this, and then slowly started to understand that the Dalai Lama is a celebrity in the eyes of foreigners; he is the embodiment of love and peace to them. He’s also the chicken soup leader (鸡汤教主) on Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, the vast majority of foreigners have a very muddled understanding of China’s modern history besides what they know of Chairman Mao, the Taiwan issue, or the Tibetan and East Turkistan separatist problems. They do not understand the significance of this history to us, just as we don’t understand what their history means to them. Also, this is linked to the fact that the majority of foreigners have freedom of speech and do not accept any control over what they say or do.
So when celebrities shake hands with the Dalai Lama and pose for a picture with them, they will be framed in the same “love and peace” cadre as him. And our voices opposing this will only make him look more like an “innocent” old man that is verbally attacked by us in their eyes – they will even defend him.
We often say that you can’t blame people for being ignorant, and this is the case here.
I studied in Australia before, but I always loved my country. I refused to make friends with Taiwanese students in favor of Taiwanese independence. On Facebook, I condemn Taiwanese Independence, and I’ve also condemned the British Virgin Atlantic Airways event [link]. I think it is worth it, and it is what I should do. But in this case, I think I have the right to say no: I will not keep changing my favorite singers all my life when they meet with the Dalai Lama just because they don’t know any better.
I am writing this just because I wanted to tell you – do not go along with the same vision of hatred and hostility to the people. After all, all great developments start with tolerance.”
Many other netizens share the view of this Weibo blogger, saying: “She can meet whoever she wants – it is her freedom.”
One other Weibo user writes: “China has always shut her out anyway, so she actually has no obligations to take the feelings of her Chinese fans into account…” Lady Gaga songs were previously censored in China for being “vulgar”.
The same Weibo user named Tomie also confirms this: “Lady Gaga has stopped caring about China for a long time, because her concerts here were repeatedly refused, her songs are illegally downloaded, her interviews are prohibited to be broadcasted. She can do whatever she wants – it’s not our business what she does.”
Others also say that Lady Gaga cannot be blamed for being “ignorant”: “I am Chinese and to this day I still unsure what the deal is with the Dalai Lama, all I vaguely know about is from some junior high school textbook – so how can you expect foreigners to understand these political disputes? If you’re all so clever, then tell me, isn’t the Dalai Lama a Buddhist fellow? And for the rest..?”
Another Weibo user also said: “In fact, foreign media are mostly positive about the Dalai Lama, with many distinguished celebrities wanting to befriend him.” “If we would shut out Lady Gaga because of this,” another person adds: “then wouldn’t the people we shut out become a bit much?” Throughout the years, the Dalai Lama has met with many politicians and celebrities, from Bono and President Obama to British Prime minister Cameron, from Russel Brand and the Clintons to Chancellor Merkel.
“We need to divide politics from idols,” one netizen argues: “For example, I really like Japanese style, but I oppose their political stance.”
Other netizens just do not see what all the fuss is about. “If I had the opportunity, I’d also wanna meet him!”, one Weibo user says: “What’s the problem?!”
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