China on Tuesday rejected the assertion by the Dalai Lama that his successor could be found in India — a move that could undermine the legitimacy of the next in line chosen by Beijing.
The 14th Dalai Lama has been living in India in exile since 1959.
China has labeled him a “dangerous secessionist,” who undermines the “one-China” principle, which implies that Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang are integral parts of China.
Speaking to Reuters, the Dalai Lama said that China is worried about the legitimacy of his successor. “In future, in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from here, in a free country, one is chosen by Chinese, and then nobody will trust, nobody will respect (the one chosen by China). So that’s an additional problem for the Chinese. It’s possible, it can happen,” the 83-year-old Tibetan monk said.
In its response, the Chinese foreign ministry was unequivocal in rejecting the Dalai Lama’s assertion. Reacting to the interview, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the reincarnation of Dalai Lama should pursue Chinese laws, regulations as well as established religious principles.
“I knew you were going to ask this question. Well, here is the answer: Reincarnation is the unique way of Tibetan Buddhism. It has fixed rituals and systems. The Chinese government has a policy of freedom of religious beliefs. We have the regulation of religious affairs and regulations on the reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhism. We respect and protect such ways of Tibetan Buddhism,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
He added: “The reincarnation system has been there for hundreds of years. The 14th Dalai also was recognised in the religious rituals and was approved by the Central government. So the reincarnation of Dalai Lama should be following the national laws and regulations and the religious rituals.”
China has insisted that it reserved the right to appoint the Dalai Lama’s successor, pursuing the long established tradition set by Chinese emperors.
Tibetans hold the belief that the soul of the Dalai Lama will reincarnate in the body of a child after his death, who has then to be identified as his successor following a set of rituals.
The 14th Dalai Lama was born in 1935, and lives in exile in India, along with around 100,000 Tibetans.