The future choices by the Tibetan spiritual leader of his successor will be “illegal”, warned Beijing on Monday, stating that the title of “Dalai Lama” was conferred by the Chinese central government.
“The title ‘Dalai Lama’ is given by the central government and is illegal in any other scenario,” said Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two days after the Dalai Lama said that he would choose his successor himself.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, 76 years old and in exile since 1959, said Saturday he would decide his reincarnation when he is 90 years old.
“When I approach my 90 years, I will consult the great lamas of Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Tibetan and other followers of Tibetan Buddhism and a reassessment of the institution of the Dalai Lama will be made. My decision will be made on that basis,” he said.
According to Tibetan tradition, the monks must identify a young boy showing signs that he is the reincarnation of the last spiritual leader.
But the Dalai Lama spoke in the past a possible break with this tradition by choosing a successor before his death and among Tibetans in exile. He also said he might be open to an election of the next Dalai Lama.
“A set of religious rituals and historical conventions involved in the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and there has never been the custom of a Dalai Lama choosing his own successor,” said Hong.
In 1995 Beijing rejected the Dalai Lama’s choice for the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second highest title in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Panchen Lama chosen by China, Gyaincain Norbu, is now 21 years old and often praised the Chinese government in Tibet.
The Panchen Lama chosen by the Dalai Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has not been seen since 1995.