03/08/2010, 00.00
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Beijing openly claims the right to choose the next Dalai Lama

The governor of Tibet Autonomous Region has no doubts: the choice of the next incarnation of the head of Tibetan Buddhism will need the approval of China. The same happens to Catholic bishops. Foreign minister defends his government, claims it is not being tough but only defending the national interest.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing has indicated that it will not negotiate the selection of a successor to the ageing Dalai Lama with him, insisting that it has the final decision on the reincarnated successors to the Buddhist region's top lamas, this according to Padma Choling, governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region, who said there was no need now to discuss the issues related to the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.  At present, the succession to the god-king of Tibet has become one of the region’s most sensitive issues. The current and 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is aging. His death could create a leadership vacuum in the Tibetan government-in-exile and among China’s Buddhists that worries both Dharamsala (seat of the government-in-exile) and Beijing.

Other Tibetans fear that the loss of their most recognised leader could weaken the unity of the Tibetan movement and potentially trigger widespread unrest in ethnic Tibetan regions in mainland China, after an outburst of anti-Han violence prompted a tight security clampdown in March 2008.

Conscious of the problem, the current Dalai Lama has already talked about his succession.  For the Nobel Prize laureate, his next incarnation might be found outside the country and could even be a woman. He also suggested that Tibetans might vote for his successor or even hold a referendum on whether to continue an institution that gave one monk both spiritual and temporal sway over Tibet.

Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Regional People's Congress, said the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must meet all four traditional requirements: religious rituals, historical conventions, lot drawing from the Golden Urn in the face of the Buddha Sakyamuni, and approval of the central government.

As it does for all other official religions, China’s officially atheist government claims the right to intervene in religious matters (like appointing Catholic bishops).

On the Tibet question, the Chinese government is in the driver’s seat. Having abducted the real Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second-highest-ranking figure, it now hopes to pick the Dalai Lama’s successor.

Informed by such an attitude, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has defended China’s foreign policy. In his view, “China is becoming tougher and tougher on the external front” because it needs to defend its national interests. As for tensions with the United States, blame lies squarely with Washington.

Speaking on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress currently underway in the capital, Mr Yang said, “Should one view the actions taken by a country to defend its own dignity and core interests as being tough and take for granted that the interests of other countries can be infringed upon? If that is the case, how can there be justice?”

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