China Insists Dalai Lama's Successor Must Be Chosen Through Reincarnation

Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet, said Monday during a break at the Chinese Parliament meeting that the Dalai Lama, the nation's highest-ranking spiritual leader, would not be allowed to choose his successor. Instead he maintained that Tibetan religious and historical traditions must be observed in the process of choosing someone to take over his position in order to preserve the Tibetans' unique culture.

Previously, the Dalai Lama, living in exile in India, has said he might have to break with tradition in order to find his successor through other means in an effort to preserve Tibet's culture and religion.

The current Dalai Lama -- the 14th -- has been living in exile since fleeing Tibet in 1959. Traditionally, the Dalai Lama served as both the spiritual leader and the head of government in Tibet during his lifetime. After his death, the High Lamas begin the search for a boy born at approximately the same time as the Dalai Lama died. Many methods are used to try to locate the particular child, including dream interpretation and awaiting the appearance of visions in Lhamo Lhatso, also known as Oracle Lake.

The succession of Tibet's spiritual leadership has been a point of major contention between the Chinese government and the Tibetan people, especially after riots and protests that quickly turned deadly following China's appointment in 1995 of a Panchen Lama, traditionally the second highest-ranking person in Tibetan religion. Although the Dalai Lama and his supporters had already named a successor to the previous Panchen Lama, China reportedly placed that boy under house arrest, where he remains, and appointed their own Panchen Lama in his place.

To try and counteract China's intrusion on Tibet's religious and cultural heritage, the Dalai Lama has publicly proposed several solutions, including picking his successor himself. This would be a significant break from tradition, as usually both the Panchen Lama's and Dalai Lama's successors are chosen after they have died. But the Dalai Lama has said that left open-ended, he fears that China will intercede in the process for choosing his successor much like they did the Panchen Lama's. Choosing his successor may arguably make that much more difficult.

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