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Dalai Lama says successor may not be from Tibet

November 29, 2007

by Ed Lane
Tue Nov 27, 5:34 AM ET

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said Tuesday that his successor
will be chosen outside of Tibet if he dies in exile.

"If my death comes when we are still in a refugee status then logically
my reincarnation will come outside Tibet," the Dalai Lama said in an
interview restricted to three journalists.

After nearly five decades in exile, the 72-year-old said he was looking
at "different methods or ways" on the succession.

These included something "like the pope's election," seniority or
someone who can succeed in the traditional way, but may still be outside
Tibet.

"There are cases that a person before death is already chosen," he added
but said he did not wish to elaborate on that.

"China of course will appoint someone else," he said in response to a
question on Beijing's accusation last week that he was disrespecting
Buddhist traditions after he first suggested he may name his successor
before he died.

Speaking on the sidelines of an inter-faith meeting in this Sikh holy
city in northern India, the Dalai Lama said "a serious succession
process has not yet started," adding, perhaps tongue-in-cheek,
"according to my regular medical checkup I am good for another few decades."

The Tibetan leader had announced in Japan last week that he was open to
naming his successor before he died, but Tuesday he went further.

It would appear to go against centuries of tradition in which
high-ranking monks choose the reincarnation based on a series of
signals, but it also heads off plans by China's ruling Communist Party
to select the new Dalai Lama.

China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951 and has violently crushed
protests there, recently announced that so-called Tibetan living Buddhas
needed permission from the government, officially atheist, to be
reincarnated.

The Dalai Lama said a succession plan would include popular opinion from
Tibetans living in China and the exile community.

He said there should be a Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism, but noted a
need for consensus on whether the post retains relevance.

"Should the Tibetan people in the hundreds of thousands like to continue
with the Dalai Lama, (it) is important," he said.

Beijing views the Buddhist leader as a dangerous figure who wants
independence for his Himalayan homeland.

But the Dalai Lama reiterated a constant theme that a misunderstanding
remains on China's part about his goals, which he said remain cultural
autonomy and a "middle way" of co-existing.

"I want to make it very clear: we are not seeking separation or
independence," the Dalai Lama said. "We need money. We need
modernisation. From the PRC (People's Republic of China) we get much
benefit."

But he also said that Tibet was becoming the victim of "demographic
aggression" because an influx of Han Chinese into cities such as Lhasa
have lead to "some kind of cultural genocide."

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against
Chinese rule and has set up a government in exile in the Indian hill
station of Dharamsala.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner maintains that he would like to talk
with Chinese leaders. Beijing has had a series of meetings with his
emissaries in recent years, but has not endorsed direct talks.
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