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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Exiled Tibetans: China Can't Pick Next Dalai Lama

July 5, 2010

Theunis Bates
July 3, 2010

Tibet's government-in-exile reacted angrily today
to China's move to determine who will succeed the Dalai Lama when he dies.

"Neither the Tibetans in Tibet nor those in the
free world would recognize a Dalai Lama appointed
by China," Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, the Dalai
Lama's representative in Geneva, told AOL News
today. "The Dalai Lama is there to lead the
Tibetan people both spiritually and politically.
But any Lama appointed by the Chinese would have
a hidden agenda: the control of the Tibetan people."

Tibet has been led by different men believed to
be the Dalai Lama -- reincarnated leaders
inhabited by the soul of a bodhisattva, or
enlightened being -- for much of the past 400
years. But the current and 14th Dalai Lama,
Tenzin Gyatso, was forced into exile in 1959
following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Since then, he has peacefully campaigned for
limited autonomy for his homeland. China,
however, accuses him of being a violent terrorist
intent on returning Tibet to feudalism and dividing the People's Republic.

On Thursday, a senior Communist Party official
explained to foreign journalists how it would
stop future Dalai Lamas from causing as much
trouble as Gyatso. From now on, the selection of
reincarnations -- known to the Chinese as living
Buddhas -- would follow a set process and end with approval from Beijing.

"If you understand the history of Tibet, you will
find that there are strict historical conventions
and religious rituals for the reincarnations of
living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism," Hao Peng, a
deputy party secretary and vice chairman of the
Tibet Autonomous Region, told The New York Times.
"This was determined as early as the Qing dynasty."

According to Hao, the process of picking a new
religious leader works like this: Names of "soul
children" -- kids thought to be reborn senior
monks -- are attached to rods and then placed in
an old ceremonial vessel known as the Golden Urn.
Monks then pick out a stick and ask the central
government to approve the choice. (In 2007,
authorities quietly introduced a law that
declared, "The so-called reincarnated living
Buddha without government approval is illegal and
invalid"). If the government says "yes," that boy
or girl child is recognized as the Dalai Lama reincarnate.

But many Tibetans Buddhists don't believe the
Golden Urn is a truly Tibetan method of
selection. That's because the system was
introduced only in the late 18th century on the
orders of Chinese emperor Qianlong, who wanted to
boost his influence in the country. As Chinese
influence waned in Tibet, the locals went back to
using their own soulful tools. A Dalai Lama has
not been picked using the urn since 1858.

Tibetans today still have good reason to be
distrustful of any selection process involving
that shiny relic. When the Dalai Lama announced
in May 1995 that a search inside Tibet had
revealed the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen
Lama -- the second most powerful monk in Tibetan
Buddhism, behind the Dalai Lama -- communist
officials used the Golden Urn to find their own
soul child. Unsurprisingly, the stick pulled out
of the urn belonged to Beijing's favored
candidate, Gyaincain Norbu, the 6-year-old son of
two Communist Party members. (Some observers
noticed his stick was longer than the others.)

The 6-year-old boy chosen by the Dalai Lama to
replace the Panchen disappeared later that year,
along with his entire family. "He would now be
21," Chhoekyapa said. "We're exceptionally
worried about him, as we haven't heard anything
since he and his family were arrested."

Hao claimed that the Dalai Lama's candidate,
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was safe and well. "We know
that he is studying now and living in quite good
conditions," he told the Times. "His family
members and him do not want to be disrupted in their normal life."

Many Tibetans regard the Beijing-approved Panchen
-- who was educated in China and is brought out
on ceremonial occasions -- as a Communist Party
puppet. "He is not regarded very well within
Tibet, I'm afraid, except for the few Tibetans
who closely serve him," Chhoekyapa said. "It's
not to do with who he is, but the fact that the Chinese appointed him."

To prevent a repeat of the Panchen problem, the
14th Dalai Lama -- who turns 75 next week -- and
fellow exiles are now reviewing how the faith's
15th leader should be selected. The methods being
considered to stop Beijing from hijacking the
succession process include allowing the Dalai
Lama to pick his successor before he dies, or
giving that power to a college of select senior monks.

It's also possible, said Chhoekyapa, that the
Dalai Lama may decide that his successor will be
found outside Tibet. It's happened before: the
fourth Dalai Lama materialized in Mongolia, and the sixth in India.

"His Holiness escaped Tibet in 1959 because the
Chinese did not allow him to lead his people
spiritually and politically," Chhoekyapa said.
"He said that he would stay in exile until he can
carry out that role. So why would his
reincarnation be born in Tibet, if that wish has still not been fulfilled?"
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