Final say on next Dalai Lama is ours, Beijing says
Cary Huang in Beijing
Beijing has indicated that it will not negotiate the selection of a successor to the ageing Dalai Lama with him, insisting that it has the final decision on the reincarnated successors to the Buddhist region's top lamas.
Padma Choling, governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said there was no need now to discuss the issues related to the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
The hardline remarks, in rare comments on the sensitive issue, were made at a press conference yesterday on the sidelines of the National People's Congress.
The Dalai Lama's succession has become a prickly issue, as the Nobel Peace laureate ages and his health declines. Many Tibetans fear that his death may create a leadership vacuum that Beijing could exploit to tighten its grip over the restive Himalayan region.
Others fear the loss of their most recognised leader could weaken the unity of the Tibetan movement and potentially trigger widespread unrest in ethnic Tibetan regions across the mainland, after an outburst of anti- Han violence prompted a tight security clampdown in March 2008.
Padma Choling said the Dalai Lama had made a series of assertions, saying that he might choose his reincarnation while still alive, or that he could stop his reincarnation. He has also suggested that his next incarnation might be found outside the country, or that Tibetans themselves could vote on whether to continue an institution that once gave one monk both spiritual and temporal sway over Tibet.
Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Regional People's Congress, said the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must meet all the traditional requirements in four aspects: religious rituals, historical conventions passed on since the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), lot drawing from the Golden Urn in the face of the Buddha Sakyamuni, and approval from the central government.
'The 14th Dalai Lama is still alive, and it is too early to discuss this issue now,' Padma Choling told hundreds of domestic and overseas journalists.
The reincarnation issue became controversial when Beijing selected Gyaincain Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama, Tibet's second-highest-ranking figure, shortly after the Dalai Lama announced his choice of a 16-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, in 1995.
The boy and his family vanished a few weeks later. Officials have insisted he is safe, healthy and wants privacy, but Tibetans say the boy and his family are believed to be under a form of house arrest.
Asked about the boy's whereabouts and why he disappeared, Padma Choling said he was being kept out of public view at his own request, and his siblings were studying at university or working regular jobs.
'As far as I know, his family and he are now living a very good life in Tibet. He and his family are reluctant to be disturbed. They want to live an ordinary life,' Padma Choling said, adding that the boy was also a victim.
The governor called the Dalai Lama 'the mastermind of a separatist group and the very source of instability of Tibet', adding that the spiritual leader's lies to the world and media had adversely affected Tibet's development.