China's communist government will decide on the reincarnated successor of the Dalai Lama when Tibetan Buddhism's highest spiritual leader passes away, state press said Thursday.
"Besides religious rites and historical conventions, there is also a very important condition for the reincarnation of the Dalai and that is the approval of the central government," top Tibetan legislator Legqoq told Xinhua news agency.
Legqoq, who goes by only one name, was speaking on the sidelines of China's ongoing annual session of parliament which coincided with this month's 50th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising that led to the exile of the current Dalai Lama.
Legqoq said China's State Religious Affairs Commission issued regulations in 2007 that mandate government approval for all reincarnated "Living Buddhas," or lamas.
The rules were widely seen as an effort to bring Tibetan Buddhism more firmly under China's control, after decades of unrest over religious freedom and the plight of the Dalai Lama.
Living Buddhas are an important element in Tibetan Buddhism, forming a clergy of influential religious figures who are believed to be continuously reincarnated to take up their positions anew.
Often there is more than one candidate competing to be recognised as the actual reincarnation, and the authority to decide who is the true claimant carries significant power.
This is especially true in the case of the Panchen Lama, the second-most influential figure in Tibetan Buddhism behind the Dalai Lama.
Chinese authorities detained the Dalai Lama's choice of the Panchen Lama in 1995 when the boy was six years old, and he has not been seen in public since.
The Chinese government's choice as the Panchen Lama has meanwhile been paraded around the country in recent years to promote China's rule over Tibet.
He will also likely oversee the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama, after the 73-year-old incumbent passes away.
Source: AFP Asian Edition