Reincarnations of Tibetan spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, must be approved by the Chinese central government, a senior Communist Party official said.
The remarks were among the clearest indications yet that China will appoint a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama after the current Dalai Lama dies, setting off a struggle with exiled leaders of the Chinese territory over Tibetan Buddhism.
The official, Hao Peng, a deputy party secretary and vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told a small group of foreign journalists that the selection of reincarnations, what the Chinese call “living Buddhas,” must follow a process that was rooted in history and that culminated in approval of the reincarnations by the central government.
“If you understand the history of Tibet, you will find that there are strict historical conventions and religious rituals for the reincarnations of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism,” Hao said on Tuesday. “This was determined as early as the Qing dynasty.”
Hao spoke at a news conference in an ornate reception room of the government offices in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
Hao’s remarks were echoed on Thursday by Nianzha, a senior monk at Tashilhunpo Monastery here in Shigatse.
The monastery is the seat of power of the Panchen Lama, the second-ranking lama of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, behind the Dalai Lama.
Nianzha is the director of the monastery committee that deals with the government, and he told the journalists that the Chinese government had properly appointed an 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 through the same process that is expected to be used to find the next Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader.