A former high-ranking official of the Chinese Communist Party said in an interview published on Thursday that the totalitarian regime will have the final say on who will replace the current Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama is the highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism and is considered the reincarnation of the Buddha himself. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th in his lineage and has held this title since 1940. According to the belief, the Dalai Lama chooses whom to reincarnate after his death, or whether he reincarnates at all. The Dalai Lama is the tallest of several “living Buddhas” – people believed to carry the Buddha within them.
In 1995, the Communist Party disappeared another living Buddha, the Panchen Lama, at the age of six, replacing him with a communist-approved selection. The party claims that the original boy is alive and lives peacefully and anonymously, but has never provided any evidence of this and no one has been able to independently verify the boy’s safety and whereabouts.
The current Dalai Lama is 87 years old. His advanced age raised serious concerns among Tibetan Buddhists about who would replace him and how the Communist Party would react.
The Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist and anti-religious. It allows only five religions to operate legally in China and only under their control and as tools of pro-regime propaganda: Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Catholicism (without Vatican authority) and Protestant Christianity. The regime’s Buddhist authorities enthusiastically support the Communist Party and denounce the Dalai Lama as a rogue and faith-violating party.
The Dalai Lama has been living in exile in India for decades. In occupied Tibet, open Buddhist support for the Dalai Lama can result in arrest and other legal repercussions.
Zhu Weiqun, a former communist party official for religious affairs, repeated to you Global times on Thursday, propaganda that after the death of the current Dalai Lama, the Communist Party will quickly choose a replacement in line with Beijing’s interests. Zhu was commenting on a recent interview with a Tibetan refugee leader who warned the world of this very potential development.
According Global timesZhu said China’s usurpation of Buddhist power would be to offer “support and guidance in finding a successor to the 14th Dalai Lama.” Zhu and other alleged “experts” insisted that the Chinese government would have to “finally approve” anyone identified as the next Dalai Lama.
Zhu argued that previous Chinese governments, prior to communism, played a role in the selection of living Buddhas, so “this has already shown that the ultimate authority on the succession of the Dalai belongs to no one but to the central government.”
Zhu denounced the Dalai Lama for “betrayal” by rejecting communism and Chinese colonialism in Tibet.
“He betrayed the motherland by vainly trying to turn the power belonging to the central government into his personal right to achieve his separatist goals,” Zhu said. “He also betrayed Tibetan Buddhism by trying to destroy its historical conventions. He turned Tibetan Buddhism into a tool of separatism.”
The Communist Party calls supporters of the decolonization of Tibet “separatists”. The Tibetans have condemned both the lack of sovereignty within their territory and the widespread discriminatory abuses against ethnic Tibetans as reasons why Tibetans cannot live in peace under the rule of the Communist Party. Chinese dictator Xi Jinping – who is now enforcing similar policies on a larger scale in neighboring East Turkestan – has waged campaigns over the past decade to erase the Tibetan language, separate Tibetan children from their parents to raise them ethnically Han, and imprisoned as many as half a million Tibetans in concentration camps.
Zhu’s tirade to Global times was in response to a warning by the president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, in a recent interview with the South Asian news site PTI that China would “definitely interfere” in the process of finding the 15th Dalai Lama as the current incarnation passes away.
“What will happen after the departure of the current Dalai Lama is a big challenge for the Tibetans, especially if the Sino-Tibetan conflict is not resolved,” Tsering told PTI.
“We believe that China will certainly interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession process … They have been preparing for this for the last 15 years,” he assured.
Tsering raised the issue of the missing Panchen Lama as an example of what he thought the Communists would try to do after the Dalai Lama’s death.
“They (the Chinese) intervened in 1995 when they chose a boy (Gyancain Norbu) as the Panchen Lama,” says Tsering. “A boy identified by His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) as the Panchen Lama (Gedhun Choeyi Nyima) has been kidnapped and we still have no information if he is alive.”
Nyima was six years old when the current Dalai Lama identified him as the Panchen Lama. Soon after, he and his entire family disappeared. He has not been seen in public since May 1995.
In 2015, Chinese government officials claimed that no one had seen Nyima in public because he “didn’t want to be disturbed” but had “grown up healthy” and led a happy life. Beijing has not provided any proof that Nyima is alive.
In his interview, Tsering said his government-in-exile had organized a 14-point plan to respond to China’s usurpation of Buddhist power after the Dalai Lama’s death.
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