Beijing’s concern with the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation

The Dalai Lama shook up 370 years of tradition last March when he announced that he would step down from his post as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile. Over the weekend the Nobel laureate shook things up again, saying: "When I am about ninety I will… re-evaluate whether the institution of ...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The Dalai Lama shook up 370 years of tradition last March when he announced that he would step down from his post as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile. Over the weekend the Nobel laureate shook things up again, saying: "When I am about ninety I will... re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not."

But Beijing and Dharamsala don't see eye to eye on much, and reincarnation is no exception. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told journalists on Monday that "the title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government and is illegal otherwise... the reincarnation of any living Buddha, including the Dalai Lama, should respect the religious rules, historical standards and state laws and regulations." China claims authority over this process based on the histories of its ancient emporers, whereas Tibetan's believe in finding the manifestations of the continuous mindstreams of their leaders.

Recently, China has asserted itself on the issue by appointing its own successors to Tibetan positions. Today's Panchen Lama, currently nominated for the Chinese version of the Nobel prize, was appointed by the Chinese government days after they arrested the Dalai Lama's own appointment (who hasn't been heard from since 1995.)

The Dalai Lama shook up 370 years of tradition last March when he announced that he would step down from his post as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile. Over the weekend the Nobel laureate shook things up again, saying: "When I am about ninety I will… re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not."

But Beijing and Dharamsala don’t see eye to eye on much, and reincarnation is no exception. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told journalists on Monday that "the title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government and is illegal otherwise… the reincarnation of any living Buddha, including the Dalai Lama, should respect the religious rules, historical standards and state laws and regulations." China claims authority over this process based on the histories of its ancient emporers, whereas Tibetan’s believe in finding the manifestations of the continuous mindstreams of their leaders.

Recently, China has asserted itself on the issue by appointing its own successors to Tibetan positions. Today’s Panchen Lama, currently nominated for the Chinese version of the Nobel prize, was appointed by the Chinese government days after they arrested the Dalai Lama’s own appointment (who hasn’t been heard from since 1995.)

In handing off political power, the Dalai Lama hoped to prevent any instability his death and reincarnation might bring to Tibet. But China seems intent not to let him off that easy.

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