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20 November, 2007

Dalai Lama may name successor before death

An AP article found this morning on the International Herald Tribune and other web sites:

Report: Dalai Lama may appoint successor before he dies, a break from centuries of tradition

The Dalai Lama has said he may appoint a successor or call democratic elections before his death instead of relying on reincarnation, a Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday, following recent orders that China must approve Tibet's spiritual leaders.

The exiled leader also accused Chinese authorities of stepping up persecution of Tibetan monks and civilians, and called the region's relations with the central Chinese government "the most tense in recent years," according to the Sankei Shimbun, a national daily.

"The Tibetan people would not support a successor selected by China after my death," the Dalai Lama was quoted as telling the paper during a trip to Japan.

"If the Tibetan people wish to uphold the Dalai Lama system, one possibility would be to select the next Dalai Lama while I am still living. Among options being considered are a democratic selection by the high monks of Tibetan Buddhism, or the appointment of a successor by myself," the leader was quoted as saying.

For centuries, the search for the reincarnation of religious leaders, known as lamas — including Tibet's spiritual head, the Dalai Lama — has been carried out by Tibetan monks following the leaders' deaths.

But a recent order by China that Beijing must approve all lama appointments have lead to concerns that the central government may forcibly select a pro-Beijing leader once the current popular Dalai Lama is dead.

China has ruled Tibet with a heavy hand since its Communist-led forces invaded in 1951, and it has accused the Buddhist monk of defying its sovereignty by pushing for Tibetan independence.

Additional reporting from AFP:
• China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, recently issued rules that Tibetan living Buddhas needed permission from the officially atheist government to be reincarnated.

• In 1995, China detained a six-year-old boy the Dalai Lama had picked for the second-most important figure of Panchen Lama. China picked its own Panchen Lama who has been paraded around to promote Beijing's rule in Tibet.

• The current Dalai Lama, who is the 14th, was born as Tenzin Gyatso to a farming family. Legend holds that when he was two years old, a search party received signs he was the Dalai Lama's reincarnation and confirmed his identity after he identified prayer beads and other relics of a previous Dalai Lama.

• The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Beijing has denounced his frequent travels overseas including his current trip to Japan, saying he should focus on religion rather than politics.

• Read the entire article on the International Herald Tribune web site.
• Related: Dalai Lama may name successor before death: report (AFP)

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