Extreme societal intrusion was a hallmark of imperial China’s statecraft on Tibet. Today, the Communist Party, too, does not shy from such practice. This has resulted in the relentless issue of quixotic laws and orders, the most recent being party leaders’ order that the Dalai Lama must reincarnate under the terms of its 2007 law on reincarnation.
Pundits in both China and the West have commented extensively on the Dalai Lama’s strategically ambiguous statements of being the last Dalai Lama, but all seem to have missed the pivotal point: the Tibetan people are the ultimate stakeholders in the Dalai Lama’s decision over whether the institution should cease or not.
In their most recent response, party leaders admonished the Tibetan leader for “betrayal” by profaning Tibetan Buddhism and the reincarnation system “permitted” by the state. The fact, however, is that the Dalai Lama is restoring the institution to its original form of 600 years ago, free from the historical state interferences and abuse by power elites, including Tibetan elites. The unique Tibetan reincarnation system of religious figures is an indigenous system built on the people’s faith in rebirth. But imperial China sought to control it in its empire-building project.[Details]
* Tenzin Norgay a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute.
**This piece appeared on the Insights Page of the South China Morning Post, A 13, 9 April 2015.