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China restates right to ratify Dalai Lama's reincarnation

The Dalai Lama Photo: Reuters 

China on Sunday restated the central government's right to ratify the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, as a white paper on Tibet was issued to explain the current regional ethnic autonomous policy on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

"No matter what the Dalai Lama says or does, the central government's recognized rights toward reincarnation cannot be denied," Norbu Dunzhub, a member of the Tibet Autonomous Region's United Front Work Department said on Sunday at a press conference in Beijing.

The remarks came in response to a question about the whereabouts of 26-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who had been named by the Dalai Lama in exile as the Panchen Lama - the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism - when he was 6 years old.

"The reincarnated child 'Panchen Lama' you mentioned is receiving education, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed," Norbu Dunzhub said.

He denounced the Dalai Lama for declaring the boy as the reincarnated Panchen Lama, saying the selection "ignored historical customs and destroyed religious rituals."

"The identification was done without authorization. It was illegal and invalid," he said.

Qin Yongzhang, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the Dalai Lama had gone against the religious tradition as the reincarnated "soul boy" of a deceased Living Buddha should be confirmed after a lot-drawing ceremony held by central government representatives in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

Between 1653 and 1713, emperors under the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) established the system of lot-drawing from the golden urn to confirm the "soul boy" among the candidates, according to the white paper, titled "Successful Practice of Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet."

However, the Dalai Lama just selected Gedhun Choekyi Nyima from the list of candidates at will, without a lot-drawing ceremony in Tibet, Qin said.

"Besides, the system features political concerns inherently," said Penpa Lhamo, deputy head of the contemporary studies institute of the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences.

She said that it was established by Qing emperors in a bid to proclaim the central government's sovereignty over Tibet and to stabilize the local political situation where interest groups and the aristocracy had selected their family members as Living Buddhas to gain more political potency.

Although the current central government is led by the Communist Party of China which upholds atheism, the central government is still responsible for stability in Tibet, she told the Global Times.

"Therefore, the central government has granted Tibet autonomy, paying respect to locals who hold religious beliefs," she said.

The Living Buddha reincarnation is proceeding well. Tibet now has 358 Living Buddhas, more than 60 of whom have been confirmed through historical conventions and traditional religious rituals, according to the white paper.

Strategy of last resort

The 14th Dalai Lama's "government-in-exile," which advertised itself as a democratic government, accused the Chinese government of depriving Tibetans of freedoms of speech and expression, as well as religion and personal liberty, according to a statement issued by the "government-in-exile" to mark the 55th anniversary of "Tibetan Democracy Day" on Wednesday.

"It is merely a strategy of last resort when its other accusations have drawn a lukewarm response as the national strength of China grows, the political system gets more mature and the country has obtained more say in the global arena," Penpa Lhamo said.

That their accusations have lost their appeal can be told from their shrinking demands, Qin said, citing the transition of political slogans from "Tibetan independence" to the "middle way" as an example.

The "middle way" is a political ideal advocated by the 14th Dalai Lama, who calls for a "Greater Tibet" with "a high degree of autonomy" within China.

A government document issued in April slammed the notion, calling it an attempt to create a "state within a state" on Chinese territory as an interim step toward the ultimate goal of full independence.

Meanwhile, top Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Sunday arrived in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, leading a central government delegation to attend festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the region's founding.

Yu visited Tibetan-ethnic leaders and their families Sunday afternoon, praising their "selfless contribution" to the construction of the region.


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