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China condemns Dalai Lama for ideas on succession

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Dalai Lama on Thursday for making a series of suggestions over how his successor as Tibet’s spiritual leader might be chosen.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gestures during a conference at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi November 13, 2007. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

“The Chinese government has a policy of religious freedom and respects Tibetan Buddhism’s religious rituals and historic conventions,” said ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

“The Dalai Lama’s related actions clearly violate established religious rituals and historic conventions and therefore cannot be accepted,” he told a regular news conference, without elaborating.

Traditionally, a Dalai Lama’s death provokes a search for his reincarnation among children born in Tibet at the same time.

Many Tibetans fear the death of the current Dalai Lama, now 72, would be a major setback in their fight for more autonomy within China or for outright independence, creating a leadership vacuum that Beijing could be expected to exploit.

In hopes of circumventing this, the Dalai Lama has long suggested that his reincarnation be sought outside China.

More controversially, he also suggested in Japan this month that his successor could be chosen before his death.

Other options he has considered include having senior lamas follow Vatican conclave practice and elect one of their number to succeed him, and giving Tibetans the chance to vote on whether to do away with the institution of Dalai Lama altogether.

He has talked of a possible referendum, but his spokesman was quick to point out that the idea was not for a general vote to choose his successor.

“The referendum (would be) on whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not,” Tenzin Taklah told Reuters in India on Wednesday. “It’s just an idea”.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu said on Thursday that China could not accept any form of referendum on the Dalai Lama’s role.

China has ruled remote, mountainous Tibet with an iron hand since Communist troops invaded in 1950, and Tibetans have chafed under the yoke ever since.

Tibetan monks rioted last week after an altercation between them and a Han Chinese shopkeeper.

It was the most recent of a string of incidents in Tibet, where tensions between Chinese and Tibetans remain high.

Liu said that while he had no more details on the incident, the general situation in Tibet was stable and its economy was developing well.

“Anyone who tries to disrupt Tibet’s stability and development will not have the support of the people and will not succeed,” he added.