United States wants United Nations to take up Dalai Lama succession issue, envoy says
- Choice of next spiritual chief ‘belongs to the Tibetan Buddhists and not the Chinese government’, says Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom
- ‘I would hope that the UN would take the issue up’, envoy says
Brownback said he told the Dalai Lama that the US would seek to build global support for the principle that the choice of the next spiritual chief “belongs to the Tibetan Buddhists and not the Chinese government”.
“I would hope that the UN would take the issue up,” he said.
He acknowledged that China, with its veto power on the Security Council, would work strenuously to block any action, but he hoped countries could at least raise their voices at the United Nations.
“I think it’s really important to have an early global conversation because this is a global figure with a global impact,” he said.
“That’s the big thing that we’re really after now, to stir this before we’re right in the middle of it – if something happens to the Dalai Lama, that there has been this robust discussion globally about it ahead of time,” he said.
“My estimation undoubtedly is that the [Chinese] Communist Party has thought a lot about this. So they’ve got a plan and I think we have to be equally aggressive with a plan.”
The Dalai Lama once travelled incessantly, drawing huge Western audiences with his good-humoured lectures on compassion and happiness.
Brownback said he found the Dalai Lama “quite jovial” and that the monk had told him he was “going to live another 15, 20 years … I’m going to outlast the Chinese government”.
But Beijing has indicated it is waiting out the Dalai Lama, believing his campaign for greater Tibetan autonomy will end with him.
China, which argues that it has brought modernisation and development to the Himalayan region, has increasingly hinted that it could name the next Dalai Lama, who would presumably be groomed to support Chinese rule.
In 1995, the officially atheist government selected its own Panchen Lama and detained a six-year-old identified for the influential Buddhist position – whom rights groups called the world’s youngest political prisoner.