The Dalai Lama has defended the controversial fostering of Tibetan exiled children by Swiss families in the 1960s. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
When the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled, taking 10,000 Tibetans with him into Nepal and Northern India, where they lived in terrible conditions. Many exiled children went to a nursery in Dharamsala run by the Dalai Lama’s sister, while their parents were sent to road-building camps.
An influential Swiss industrialist, Charles Aeschimann , wanted to help them and agreed with the Dalai Lama to take 200 children and place them in Swiss foster homes or the Pestalozzi children’s village, a community for children and families in Appenzell.
According to a Swiss documentary aired in 2013, only 19 of the 200 children were actually orphans, contrary to the expectations of the foster parents. The film by director Ueli Meier was called, "Tibi and his mothers”.
The Swiss media – in particular the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper – questioned the motives behind the orphans’ resettlement, suggesting that the Dalai Lama wanted to use it to create an elite class of Tibetans overseas, regardless of the parents’ wishes.
During a recent visit to Basel, the Dalai Lama spoke about the ordeal of the exiled children. He pointed out that the children sent to Switzerland were in a desperate situation.