But to Chinese officials who view the Dalai Lama as a Tibetan separatist — and in December tried to paint him as a supporter of the Islamic State — the meeting was more sinister than it seemed.
“The purpose of his visits and activities in other countries is just to promote his proposal for Tibetan independence,” Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said Monday, according to the Associated Press.
For nearly six decades, since a Tibetan revolution against China failed in 1959, the Dalai Lama has been in exile from his homeland. In 2009, the Dalai Lama said China had made Tibetan life “hell on Earth,” according to CNN; in 2011, a Communist Party chief reiterated the famous epithet that the Dalai Lama is a “wolf in monk’s robes.”
Lady Gaga’s friendliness toward the spiritual leader means she, too, has incurred the Chinese government’s wrath. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television now legally forbids Lady Gaga and her music from appearing on the radio or TV. Her downloadable albums will be removed from online stores.
In a translation of a report in Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, the Guardian said that Lady Gaga had been added to a “list of hostile foreign forces.” This is no insignificant threat, as the musician is arguably the most popular Western singer in China, according to the BBC. On social media, Lady Gaga was both applauded for meeting with the Dalai Lama and excoriated by Chinese fans who say she gave them up.
It is not the first time China has censored Lady Gaga. She was subject to a three-year ban that ended in 2014, though that was because her music posed a threat to Chinese “cultural security” rather than because of meeting with political figures.
Nor is she the first popular act from the West to be restricted from Middle Kingdom airwaves for perceived Tibetan sympathies. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese officials began taking a harder look at Western musicians after the singer Bjork shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” at a Shanghai venue in 2008. A year later, the band Oasis was banned, perhaps because lead guitarist Noel Gallagher performed at a Free Tibet concert in 1997. This prompted some Chinese observers, according to the Journal, to begin calling the bans “getting Bjork’d.”
In the past year, artists as diverse as Bon Jovi and Selena Gomez have canceled concerts in China, possibly under pressure for supporting the Dalai Lama — or, in the case of the band Maroon 5, attending his birthday party.