Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, apologized Monday after a video showing him kissing a child’s lips sparked criticism.
A statement posted on his official website said 87-year-old leader Regrets the incident and wishes to “apologise to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends around the world, for the hurt his words may have caused.”
The incident occurred during a public gathering in February at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamshala, where the exiled leader lives. He was answering questions from the audience when the boy asked if he could hug him.
The Dalai Lama asked the boy to come up to the platform where he was sitting. In the video, he points to his own cheek before the child kisses him before giving him a hug.
The Dalai Lama asked the boy to kiss him on the lips and stick out his tongue. “Then suck my tongue,” the Dalai Lama can be heard saying as the boy sticks out his own tongue and leans in, drawing laughter from the audience.
The video sparked an online backlash, with social media users condemning his behavior as inappropriate and disturbing.
“His Holiness often made fun of people he met in an innocent and playful way, even in public and in front of the cameras,” the Dalai Lama wrote in a statement.
The Dalai Lama has made the mountainside town of Dharamshala his headquarters since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. India considers Tibet to be part of China, even though it hosts Tibetan exiles.