Tensions over what will happen when the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79, dies, and particularly over who decides who will succeed him as the most prominent leader in Tibetan Buddhism, have ignited at the annual gathering of China’s legislators in Beijing.
Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet.
[A] Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.
The idea of Communist Party officials defending the precepts of reincarnation and hurling accusations of heresy at the Dalai Lama might have Marx turning in his grave. The party is committed to atheism in its ranks.
But the dispute over reincarnation has profound implications for Beijing and its hold over Tibetan areas, where protests and self-immolations have brought into focus simmering discontent. The Chinese government is determined to manage all aspects of Tibetan Buddhist tradition, including the most sacred rituals of succession, to ensure that the restive region remains firmly under Chinese control.
So if the incumbent Dalai Lama, who remains revered in Tibet more than half a century after he fled into exile in 1959, uses his clout to nullify the historic selection process, China faces the prospect of continuing discontent there after his death. It would in essence be a last act of defiance by the Dalai Lama.
“It’s like Fidel Castro saying, ‘I will select the next pope and all the Catholics should follow.’ That is ridiculous,” Mr. Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile, told Reuters.