China snubs Dalai Lama, says it can appoint his successor

BEIJING (TIP): Rejecting the Dalai Lama’s views on ending the system of reincarnated Tibetan spiritual head, the Chinese government on September 11 said it will preserve the centuries old tradition among Tibetan Buddhists, saying it has the powers to appoint the next Dalai Lama. “The title of the Dalai Lama is conferred by the Chinese government,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

China had a “set religious procedure and historic custom”, she said. “The 14th Dalai Lama has ulterior motives and is seeking to distort and negate history, which is damaging the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism,” Hua told reporters at a briefing. The Dalai Lama, 79, recently told German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag that the tradition of the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetans could end with him. He said Tibetan Buddhism wasn’t dependent on a single person.

He had earlier said he won’t be reborn in China if Tibet wasn’t free and that no country, including China, had the right to choose his successor “for political ends”. The Dalai Lama’s latest statement about an end to the tradition appears to have hurt the officially atheist Communist Party’s plans to maintain peace and order in Tibetan-speaking areas, which is spread across five Chinese provinces. “China follows a policy of freedom of religion and belief, and this includes respect to and protection of Tibetan Buddhism,” Hua said.

In Tibetan Buddhism, senior-most Lamas can take years to identify a child deemed a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. The search is usually limited to Tibet. But there is fear in China that the next Dalai Lama may be identified from some born in a country other than Tibet or China, and possibly the US, which might further complicate the situation.

The reincarnation debate first surfaced in 1995 after the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, The boy has not been seen since although government officials say he is growing up like a normal Chinese kid. China chose another boy and appointed him the Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama occasionally makes statements supportive of Beijing’s policy on religious affairs.

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