Beijing plans to cobble together its very own Dalai Lama

By David Rennie in Beijing Sydney Morning Herald Friday, August 10, 2001

China has set out its plans to appoint a puppet Dalai Lama when Tibet's spiritual leader dies.

The communist regime will ignore the Tibetan Buddhist method of identifying his reincarnation and instead use a "historical ritual" cobbled together, at the behest of its own officials, from Tibetan and Chinese traditions.

The move, reported in Chinese state media on Wednesday, threatens to lead to the creation of rival Dalai Lamas.

The Tibetan government-in-exile denounced the plans as "a new imposition which will never be accepted by the Tibetan people". The state news agency Xinhua quoted Raidi, the most senior ethnic Tibetan in the administration, saying that when the exiled Dalai Lama died, China proposed to find several candidate boys for his reincarnation.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama—Photo © Philip Hemley
One will be chosen by drawing lots from a golden urn, then his status will be confirmed by "ratification by the Chinese central government". According to traditional Buddhist tenets, high lamas have foreknowledge of when and where they will be reborn, and frequently leave detailed, if cryptic, instructions as to where they will be found. Search parties carry possessions of the deceased lama, which the reincarnation should be able to recognise.

The Chinese alternative, blending religious ritual and political power, was first used in November 1995, when China imposed on Tibet its chosen reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second most senior cleric in Tibetan Buddhism.

The boy failed to attract popular support in Tibet, despite intensive "patriotic education" campaigns, backed by arrests and intimidation in monasteries.

A rival small boy chosen by the exiled Dalai Lama as the new Panchen Lama was taken into custody by Chinese officials, along with his family. He has never been seen again, although China insists he is alive and well.

China's propaganda machine sets great store by the golden urn at the heart of its "ritual", but Kesang Takla, the secretary for international relations of the Tibetan government-in-exile, said the urn had no legal force.

"The Chinese communists have no religious faith, and no right to interfere in rituals that are based on Buddhism, and are very spiritual.''

She repeated predictions that the next Dalai Lama would be born in exile. "We believe that high lamas have some freedom over where they are born." China says it will reject any "foreign" Dalai Lama.

Successor to Dalai Lama Mulled
By ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press Writer

HONG KONG Thursday August 9 (AP) - A senior Tibetan official says the Chinese government will decide on a successor for the Dalai Lama - countering the spiritual leader's prediction that his reincarnation will be found outside China.

Raidi, the No. 2 leader of the Tibet branch of China's Communist Party, told Hong Kong journalists visiting the capital city Lhasa that the Dalai Lama's reincarnation would be chosen according to ``historical customs and religious rituals.''

The choice must then be confirmed ``after being ratified by the central Chinese government,'' reports carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency and several Hong Kong newspapers quoted Raidi as saying. Like many Tibetans, he uses only one name.

China's determination to control the selection of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, is part of Beijing's effort to tighten its grip on the region's restive and highly religious people.

Beijing has been struggling to quell separatist sentiment since communist troops arrived in the Himalayan region in 1950. In recent years, the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities have clashed several times over the choices of children named as successors to high lamas, who Tibetan Buddhists believe are reborn to help mankind.

The Dalai Lama, who turned 66 last month, fled Tibet in 1959 following a failed anti-Chinese uprising. Two years ago, he announced he would not be reincarnated inside Tibet but in a free country outside Chinese control. He also said it was possible that his successor might be chosen by nontraditional means, such as a vote among senior priests.

Raidi said the Chinese government would deem void any acts that violate traditional customs or rituals.

Raidi accused the Dalai Lama of sabotaging economic growth and instigating unrest in Tibet, the South China Morning Post reported. The central government recently decided to spend $8.5 billion to develop Tibet's backward economy over the next five years and would open the remote region to more tourism, he added.

The Chinese government has sought to undermine the Dalai Lama's popularity and it rejects his authority to recognize reincarnations, claiming that only Beijing can ordain high lamas.

The Dalai Lama lives with other Tibetan exiles in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala. Tashi Phuntsok, the representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, said Wednesday that Tibetans worldwide would not recognize any reincarnated lamas that had been approved by China.

"Even if they recognize somebody as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan people will never recognize him,'' said Phuntsok. ``The real reincarnation must be recognized by the Dalai Lama and Tibetans, including the Tibetans inside, under Communist China.''

In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a 6-year-old ``soul boy'' as successor to the Panchen Lama, Tibet's second most important religious leader. Beijing rejected his choice and installed a child of its own choosing. The Dalai Lama's choice has not been seen in public since.

Earlier this year, the Dalai Lama announced that the Reting Lama, another important monk, had not yet been reborn, and the 2-year-old boy installed by China could not be the true reincarnation. The line of Reting Lamas traditionally has been recognized by the Dalai Lamas, and in turn helps in the search for the incarnation of the Dalai Lamas.

Naming the 7th Reting Lama would give Beijing a key foothold in the process of identifying the Dalai Lama's successor.

Tibetans denounce China's plans for lama

BBC News Thursday, 9 August, 2001

The Tibetan government-in-exile has told BBC News Online it will never accept China's plans to choose the next Dalai Lama.

The body dismissed as "daydreams" China's reported decision to invoke a selection process based on historical and religious Buddhist rituals after the current high lama dies.

Traditionally, a successor to the Dalai Lama has been identified by Buddhist priests as a reincarnation of his former self derived from cryptic clues left by the previous spiritual leader during his lifetime.

But the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said Ragdi, the Tibetan Deputy Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, has announced the next Dalai Lama would be chosen from among several candidates by lots drawn from a golden urn.

However, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile denounced the plans as illegitimate.

"A regime that regards religion as a poison in society has no right at all to interfere in the religious affairs of the Tibetan people," Migyur Dorjee told BBC News Online.

Conflicting claims?

Xinhua quoted Ragdi as saying that "acts that violate historical customs and religious rituals will be deemed void" and the final choice of leader would be ratified by the Chinese Government.

Such a move would set the regime on a collision course with Tibet's Buddhist population and possibly lead to two rival claimants to the office of high lama.

The Tibet Information Network (TIN), which describes itself as an independent news and research centre, said the Chinese Government wants to create the impression its actions are in accordance with Tibetan traditions.

"Religious freedom in Tibet remains subordinate to the political and economic considerations of the state. This is an example of traditional Tibetan Buddhist procedures being hijacked by the Chinese authorities for their own political purposes," TIN spokesperson Kate Saunders told BBC News Online.

A previous attempt by China in 1995 to choose a successor to the second highest Buddhist leader, the Panchen Lama, by drawing lots failed to win popular support among Tibetans.