Beijing pledge on next Dalai Lama

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 12:00am

The Tibetan government says Beijing will choose the boy who will succeed the Dalai Lama according to the rules followed by Tibetan Buddhism for centuries.

Government chairman Qiangba Puncog said if the spiritual leader, who has just turned 70, died in exile, Beijing would follow Tibetan Buddhist precedent to choose his reincarnation.

'The choice has never been arranged by the Chinese Communist Party, but by the traditional rules of Tibetan Buddhism since the Qing dynasty,' he said.

In 1995, Beijing installed Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama after rejecting a boy chosen by the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.

Qiangba Puncog said the Dalai Lama, who fled Lhasa in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, would not be allowed to return to Tibet unless he abandoned his struggle for independence.

But the chairman said channels of contact between both parties remained open, with the government maintaining informal contact with family members of the Dalai Lama and other representatives.

Speaking in Hong Kong to mark Tibetan Week, Qiangba Puncog said the status of the Dalai Lama was not a religious issue but a political problem.

'The key point is the Dalai Lama and his followers should really promise to give up Tibetan independence and safeguard our country's territorial integrity,' he said.

'The Dalai Lama's exiled government has set up a parliament and military troops. It has even expanded its separatist activities and made the Tibet problem an international issue.' This made it too early to discuss the question of the Dalai Lama's homecoming.

Qiangba Puncog said the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India, had changed tack during negotiations with Beijing and broke off talks at the time of the former Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

He said the central government had sought to narrow the gap between richer urban and poorer rural areas in Tibet through education and improvements to infrastructure, such as the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

'In order to build up a harmonious society, social stability and economic development are the most important elements,' he said.