04/11/2024, 14.47
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Beijing issues 10-point handbook on the death and succession of the Dalai Lama

Pictures, images, and activities that undermine national unity or promote a "separatist ideology" are banned. The Chinese government has long sought to control the choice of Tibet’s next spiritual leader. For his part, 88-year-old Tenzin Gyatso says he is in good health and wants to “live for more than 100 years.” Meanwhile, the fate of the Panchen Lama remains an unsolved mystery.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China has released 10-point handbook in the event of the death of the Dalai Lama. The country’s communist leaders have set a list of 10 rules for the people and monks of Tibet in anticipation of the death of their foremost spiritual guide (a sworn foe of China).

The rules are in a training handbook that is starting to appear on Chinese social media, including chat platforms. The manual contains mainly "things not to do" and is aimed at nipping in the bud any dissent. In the recent past, self-immolation by Tibetan monks and ordinary Tibetans have not been uncommon, not to mention large-scale protests in favour of democracy, human rights, and religious freedom.

In the event of the Dalai Lama’s death, Buddhist monks will not be allowed to display pictures of their spiritual leader, nor perform any vaguely defined “illegal religious activities or rituals”.

To this end, Chinese authorities have distributed the handbook to monasteries in Gansu province, in the northwest of the country, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

For Golok Jigme, a former political prisoner now in exile, the handbook goes beyond Tibet’s current religious leadership, aiming at disrupting the process of recognising the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

The Dalai Lama and China

China annexed Tibet in 1951, and has ruled the autonomous region with an iron fist. Chinese authorities claim that only the Chinese government can choose the successor and next spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, in accordance with the country's own laws.

Conversely, Tibetans believe that it is the Dalai Lama himself who chooses the body in which to reincarnate, a process that has occurred 13 times since 1391 when the first Dalai Lama was born.

Earlier this month, the current leader, 88-year-old Tenzin Gyatso, addressed hundreds of co-religionists who offered him a prayer for a long life. In his speech, he said that he was in good health and was "determined to live for more than 100 years."

On several occasions he stressed that his successor – whom Tibetans want to choose via reincarnation, as their faith dictates, while China wants to select – would come from a free country, without Chinese interference.

The Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet after the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule; since then, he has lived in exile in Dharamsala, India, becoming the longest-serving spiritual leader in Tibetan history.

This month the Panchen Lama, the second-highest office holder in Tibetan Buddhism, will mark his 35th birthday. Together with his family, he was seized by Chinese authorities on 17 May 1995 when he was a child, three days after he was recognised as a Panchen Lama by the current Dalai Lama.

For Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama is important because he is tasked with recognising the Dalai Lama's new rebirth after his death.

With the abduction, China clearly signalled its intention that it would pick the next Dalai Lama.

Responding to Beijing's meddling, Tenzin Gyatso in the past had suggested that he could be the last Dalai Lama or that the reincarnation could be done by a sort of conclave composed of the leading Buddhist abbots in the diaspora.

Charges of separatism

Human rights groups say the handbook, distributed in the Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in the historical region of Amdo, is just Beijing's latest effort to crack down on the religious freedom of the Tibetan people.

For Bhuchung Tsering, head of the research and monitoring unit of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, this is part of systematic attempts to make Tibetan Buddhists more loyal to the Chinese Communist Party and its political agenda rather than to their religious doctrine.

“This goes against all tenets of universally accepted freedom of religion of the Tibetan people that China purports to uphold,” he told RFA.

China has imposed several measures on monasteries to force monks to undergo political re-education and has strictly forbidden clerics and ordinary people from having contact with the Dalai Lama or other Tibetans in exile, who are openly accused of "separatism".

In recent years, Beijing has intensified its repression in Tibet and other parts of the country inhabited by Tibetans, repeating what it has been doing in Xinjiang, home to ethnic Uyghur Muslims.

“The latest government campaigns against the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists’ religious practices in Gansu province represent another attempt by the Chinese government to interfere in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation process," said Nury Turkel, a member of the bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Chinese repression

Specifically, the handbook warns monks to avoid any activity that could undermine national unity, damage social stability in the name of religion, or involve working with separatist groups outside the country.

No illegal organisation or institution can enter monasteries, while the monks' educational system must avoid welcoming or promoting elements that support a "separatist ideology."

Lastly, the rules also prohibit the dissemination of "separatist propaganda" via radio, internet, television, or any other means; any deception or fraud, open or covert, will be punished.

“While the Chinese government implements various political education and activities targeting Tibetans, the primary focus seems to be eradicating Tibetan identity through the dismantling of Tibetan religion and culture,” said Golog Jigme, a respected activist involved in raising awareness about the violation of Tibetan’s human rights and religious freedom.

Golog, who now lives in Switzerland, was jailed and tortured by Chinese authorities in 2008 for co-producing a documentary on the injustices faced by Tibetans under Chinese rule.

Within China, many ethnic Tibetans live in 10 autonomous Tibetan prefectures inside several Chinese provinces that border Tibet, most notably Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Yunnan.

In the Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Gansu), home to about 415,000 Tibetans who speak the Amdo dialect, the authorities distributed the handbook. The province has some 200 monasteries in varying sizes under its jurisdiction.

During a visit to two counties in Kanlho, last month, He Moubao, secretary of China’s State Party Committee, stressed the need for Tibetans to sinicise religion and implement party policy, warning that monks must be guided in this regard to maintain national unity and social stability.


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See also
Beijing imposes harsh sentences on Tibetan monks and lama
Beijing openly claims the right to choose the next Dalai Lama
Beijing to pick next Dalai Lama
In Tibet, the party’s “highest priority” is to stop the Dalai Lama
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