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Naming the Dalai Lama is not China’s business

BEIJING (UCAN): Lobsang Sangay, the exiled political leader of Tibet’s government in exile, likened an announcement that Beijing would appoint the successor to the Dalai Lama as equivalent to Cuba’s one-time dictator, Fidel Castro, appointing the next pope.

Sangay’s comment follows insistence by the Communist Party of China that it alone will decide who is the reincarnation of the ailing 80-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader.

The feud has cast doubt over the future of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule—and Tibetan Buddhism—with the Dalai Lama suggesting the lineage of 14 lamas may end with his death. In response, Beijing has repeatedly insisted it will manage the process.

Sangay dismissed China’s interference in the reincarnation process, warning of worsening abuse across Tibet during a discussion with the human rights group, Freedom House, in Washington in the United States of America (US) on February 11, the last day of the Tibetan New Year holiday.

“The situation inside Tibet continues to remain grim under repression and oppression, with no hope of improvement in the near future,” Sangay said in a video address.

His assessment was echoed by Freedom House in its annual report on worldwide liberties, which ranked Tibet slightly above Syria at the bottom of the political and civil rights heap in 2015—far behind the rest of China and even North Korea.

“The Chinese authorities have had difficulty quelling popular reverence for the Dalai Lama,” it says.

The issue of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation appears to have driven a recent escalation in Chinese repression, as the aging Tibetan spiritual leader continues to receive treatment for a prostate condition at a clinic in Minnesota.

Authorities set a deadline of February 2 for portraits of the Dalai Lama to be removed in some areas of Tibet. Beijing maintains the Dalai Lama clique was responsible for harsh serfdom before the Communist forces liberated Tibet in 1950.

Last week, authorities reportedly arrested two senior Tibetan monks on suspicion of leading a rare mass prayer service for the Dalai Lama’s recovery to good health at a gathering in Sichuan province on January 25.

China sees containment of the Dalai Lama’s influence and control of his reincarnation as the end game in crushing Tibetan resistance after more than 70 years of rule in the Himalayan region.

The younger brother of the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Choegyal, told the New York Times in December that the government in exile and its leaders are finished once his holiness is gone.

Rights groups said Chinese authorities have recently punished the families of Tibetans who have self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule—some 143 people since 2009.

Two members of the US congress, James McGovern and Joseph Pitts, sent a letter to the Chinese embassy in Washington in early February complaining that some Tibetans had received long prison terms and even death sentences after they aided or incited self-immolations.


“By criminalising and convicting relatives and friends of self-immolators, who have sacrificed their lives in their quest to exercise their fundamental human rights, the Chinese government has reached a new low in its treatment of Tibetans,” Matteo Mecacci, the president of the International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, said.

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