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Tibetans opposes China on reincarnations

September 2, 2007

DHARMSALA, India - Sep 2 (AP) - A Chinese order claiming Beijing must approve all of Tibet's spiritual leaders is an attempt to further repress and undermine the religious culture of the Himalayan region, the Tibetan government-in-exile said Sunday.

For centuries, the search for the reincarnation of lamas — including Tibet's spiritual head, the Dalai Lama — has been carried out by select Tibetan monks.

The new order, which came into force Saturday, states that all future incarnations of living Buddhas related to Tibetan Buddhism "must get government approval," according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

It also prevents any outside source from having "influence" in the selection process, the agency reported Friday.

In Dharmsala, the town in northern India where the Dalai Lama has lived since he fled amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, the government-in-exile decried the new rules.

"Recognition of tulkus (reincarnate lamas) is something that can neither be appointed from above, nor be elected by general populace, or be bestowed upon someone as titles or positions," Minister of Religion and Culture Tsering Phuntsok told reporters.

China's officially atheistic communist government has increasingly sought to direct Tibetan Buddhism, for centuries the basis of Tibet's civil, religious, cultural and political life.

Reincarnated lamas often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in Tibet.

China already insists that only the government can approve the appointments of the best-known reincarnates, including the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, the No. 1 and No. 2 figures in Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama chose 6-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama, the most exalted figure of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. The boy and his family disappeared soon after and have not been heard from since.

China's communist-led government later named Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama and said Nyima and his family were being kept in a secret location for their protection.

"Going by the religious and social norms, it is crystal clear that this cannot be done at all by the state or any political organization," Phuntsok said. "This would serve as a tool for the Chinese government to brutally repress innocent Tibetans."

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