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China says Dalai Lama has to reincarnate

March 12, 2011

Reuters [Tuesday, March 08, 2011 22:59]
By Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard

Beijing: Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, does not have a
right to choose his successor any way he wants and must follow the
historical
and religious tradition of reincarnation, a Chinese official said
Monday.It is
unclear how the 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in India and is
revered by
many Tibetans, plans to pick his successor. He has said that the succession
process could break with tradition -- either by being hand-picked by him or
through democratic elections.

But Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet, said that
the Dalai
Lama had no right to abolish the institution of reincarnation, underscoring
China's hardline stance on one of the most sensitive issues for the
restless and
remote region.

"I don't think this is appropriate. It's impossible, that's what I
think," he
said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's parliament, when
asked
about the Dalai Lama's suggestion that his successor may not be his
reincarnation.

"We must respect the historical institutions and religious rituals of
Tibetan
Buddhism," said Padma Choling, a Tibetan and a former soldier in the
People's
Liberation Army. "I am afraid it is not up to anyone whether to abolish the
reincarnation institution or not."

The Chinese government says it has to approve all reincarnations of living
Buddhas, or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. It also says
China has
to sign off on the choosing of the next Dalai Lama.

"Tibetan Buddhism has a history of more than 1,000 years, and the
reincarnation
institutions of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama have been carried on for
several
hundred years," Padma Choling said.

Some worry that once the Dalai Lama dies, China will simply appoint its own
successor, raising the possibility of there being two Dalai Lamas -- one
recognized by China and the other chosen by exiles or with the blessing
of the
current Dalai Lama.

In 1995, after the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation
of the
previous Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the
Chinese government put that boy under house arrest and installed another
in his
place.

Many Tibetans spurn the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama as a fake.

The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting violence to seek
Tibet's independence. He rejects the claim, saying he is just pushing for
greater autonomy.

Tibetan protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March
2008 gave
way to torrid violence, with rioters torching shops and turning on
residents,
especially Han Chinese, who many Tibetans see as intruders threatening
their
culture.

At least 19 people died in the unrest, which sparked waves of protests
across
Tibetan areas. Pro-Tibet groups overseas say more than 200 people were
killed in
a subsequent crackdown.

With the third anniversary of that unrest approaching, Tibet has taken
measures
to restrict visitors.

Zhang Qingli, Tibet's hardline Communist Party chief, told reporters the
restrictions were due to the "cold winter," a slew of religious
activities and
limited number of hotels.

"This is in accordance with national laws," he said.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Communist troops marched
in 1950. It says its rule has bought much needed development to a poor
and backward region.

Exiles and rights groups accuse China of failing to respect Tibet's
unique religion and culture and of suppressing its people.
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