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Successor chosen by Dalai Lama 'illegal': China

27 september 2011, 15:42
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The 14th Dalai Lama speaks during the Symposium on States of Consciousness at the World Trade Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil. ©AFP
The 14th Dalai Lama speaks during the Symposium on States of Consciousness at the World Trade Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil. ©AFP
China said Monday that any successor chosen by the Dalai Lama would be "illegal" after the Tibetan spiritual leader announced that he, and not Beijing, would decide whether he should be reincarnated, AFP reports.

The Dalai Lama, who is 76, said on Saturday he would decide when he was "about 90" whether he should be reincarnated, in consultation with other monks, and that China should have no say in the matter.

Under Tibetan tradition, monks identify a young boy who shows signs he is a reincarnation of a late leader, but many predict China will simply appoint its own successor to the Dalai Lama.

"China adopts a policy of religious freedom which includes respecting and protecting the form of succession of Tibetan Buddhism," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists at a briefing.

"The title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government and is illegal otherwise.

"There is a complete set of religious rituals and historical conventions in reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and a Dalai Lama identifying his own successor has never been the practice."

Tibet's spiritual leader said he had decided to lay out "clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama" while he was still "physically and mentally fit" so that there was "no room for doubt or deception."

The Dalai Lama made the statement in a 4,200-word document issued after a gathering of leaders of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, home of the exiled government.

He had earlier signalled a willingness to break with custom by choosing a successor before his death or among exiles outside Tibet. He had also said he might be open to electing the next Dalai Lama.

China's stance raises the prospect of two Dalai Lamas -- one recognised by Beijing and the other chosen by exiles or with the blessing of the current Dalai Lama.

This happened in 1995, when China rejected the Dalai Lama's choice to be the next Panchen Lama, the second-highest ranking Tibetan Buddhist, and picked its own reincarnation.

The Chinese-raised Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, is now 21 and often extols Beijing's rule over Tibet. The Dalai Lama's selection, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has not been seen since 1995 after he was detained by China.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He later founded the government in exile in Dharamshala after being offered refuge by India.

China vilifies him as a "separatist" who incites violence in Tibet, while he insists his sole focus is a peaceful campaign for greater autonomy for his homeland.

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