07/19/2005, 00.00
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Beijing to pick next Dalai Lama

Qiangba Puncog, head of Tibet's government, says the Dalai Lama cannot come back to Tibet unless he abandons independence.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Tibet's local government announced that Beijing will choose the Dalai Lama's successor according to the rules followed by Tibetan Buddhism for centuries. In fact, Tibet Autonomous Region chairman Qiangba Puncog said if the spiritual leader, who turned 70 on July 6, dies in exile, Beijing would follow Tibetan Buddhist precedent to choose his reincarnation.

"The choice has never been arranged by the Chinese Communist Party, but by the traditional rules of Tibetan Buddhism since the Qing dynasty (i.e. since 1644)," he said, but a precedent was set in 1995 when Beijing rejected the Dalai Lama's choice of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama and installed instead Gyaltsen Norbu. The Panchen Lama is the second highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.

China justified the move by invoking an 18th century practice that involves picking a name out of three inserted in a golden urn preserved in the Yunghegong (Lama Temple) in Beijing.

The Dalai Lama had instead left the task to a monk who was supposed to "recognise" the incarnation of the Panchen Lama. 

Since then Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have been held in isolation, whilst Gyaltsen Norbu has been trained and handled by top Party officials. In his public outings, Gyaltsen has always parised China's leadership and its Tibet policies.

Speaking about Tibet's political situation, Qiangba said that the Dalai Lama—who fled Tibet in 1959 finding refuge in India—will not be allowed to come home unless he abandoned his struggle for independence.

"The key point is the Dalai Lama and his followers should really promise to give up Tibetan independence and safeguard our country's territorial integrity," he said.

The demands of Tibet's government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India, have changed over time, going from total independence to Hong Kong-style autonomy (one country, two systems) to partial autonomy in the religious sphere.

On the Dalai Lama's birthday, Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of Tibet'sgovernment-in-exile, said that the spiritual leader was "not the problem but the key to the resolution of our problems" with Beijing.

The Tibetan question emerged in 1950 following China's military occupation of the mountain nation.

Thousands of monasteries, temples and monuments were destroyed by the invading Communist troops and the Chinese government has pursued a virtual policy of ethnic cleansing that has involved forced abortion, mass sterilisation, arrests and capital punishment inflicted on the indigenous population.

Tibet's culture and religion are now at risk. Not only have the Tibetan language and studying Tibetan customs been banned, but millions of Chinese settlers are making their way into the country. 

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