Fact Check

Is This a Real Photo of the Dalai Lama Being Arrested?

The spiritual leader of Tibet was caught up in controversy in April 2023.

Published Apr 14, 2023

 (Screenshot via Twitter/Tianxiashunv)
Image Via Screenshot via Twitter/Tianxiashunv
An authentic photograph from spring 2023 showed the Dalai Lama being arrested by police.

A picture that went viral in mid-April 2023 purportedly showed the Dalai Lama being arrested and led away by police officers. This image began spreading across the internet just days after the Tibetan leader apologized for an interaction with a young boy, which many had called inappropriate. 

The picture in question came from Twitter user @Tianxiashunv, and appeared to show the Dalai Lama surrounded by police as he was being taken somewhere. 

But this image was digitally created from artificial intelligence. Were this real, it would have made news headlines around the globe. The creator also acknowledged in a follow-up tweet, "Yes that's AI," adding that it was posted "just for lols." 

The image was clearly a response to earlier controversy surrounding the Dalai Lama's interaction with a boy. In April 2023, a video of the leader went viral in which he reportedly told a boy to "suck my tongue" at a large event with other students and attendees present. The video also appeared to show the exiled leader asking the young boy to kiss his lips, and the child following directions.

On April 10, 2023, the leader's official social media account posted an apology "for the hurt his words may have caused" and added, "His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident." 

The same Twitter account had been posting other AI images of the Dalai Lama, including one of him kissing U.S. President Joe Biden on the lips.

This was an example of a deepfake. The term "deepfake" refers to an image or video created with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI). It is now more and more common to find fake AI-generated imagery online and harder to figure out what is real. We put together a guide on spotting deepfakes here.  

Given that there's no proof of this image existing from a mainstream news website, and given that we know the Dalai Lama had not been arrested, we rate this claim as "False."


Evon, Dan. "How to Spot a Deepfake." Snopes, 8 June 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/423004/how-to-spot-a-deepfake/. Accessed 14 April 2023. 

Ibrahim, Nur. "Did the Dalai Lama Ask a Boy To 'Suck My Tongue'?" Snopes, 10 Apr. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/dalai-lama-boy-tongue/. Accessed 14 April 2023. 

"Researchers Are Preparing for the Coming Wave of Deepfake Propaganda." Snopes, 9 Oct. 2020, https://www.snopes.com/news/2020/10/09/researchers-are-preparing-for-the-coming-wave-of-deepfake-propaganda/. Accessed 14 April 2023. 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.