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China's "living Buddhas" rules stoke fire in Tibet
Reuters[Wednesday, August 08, 2007 14:43]
By Benjamin Kang Lim

TAIPEI, Aug 7: Atheist China's attempt to manipulate the centuries-old Tibetan practice of searching for reincarnations of holy monks is stoking anger in the Himalayan region, a member of Tibet's parliament-in-exile said on Tuesday.

China's State Administration of Religious Affairs posted new regulations on its Web site last week banning reincarnations of "living Buddhas" that fail to seek government approval.

"It's most silly and preposterous ... It will lead to friction and dismal failure," Khedroob Thondup, a nephew of the Dalai Lama, told Reuters in an interview.

He urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to break the ice and open dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule.

"Hu has the moral obligation ... and the mandate from heaven," Khedroob Thondup said.

The real target of the 14-article regulations, the nephew said, was the 72-year-old Dalai Lama, who remains the single most important influence in Tibetan life.

"No Tibetan will recognise a Dalai Lama appointed by Beijing," Khedroob Thondup said.

Critics say China continues to repress Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whom China denounces as a "separatist".

The rules, which come into force on Sept. 1, bar any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation for himself or recognising a "living Buddha", effectively ending the practice.

The administration Web site says reincarnations of about 1,000 living Buddhas have been approved in Tibet and Tibetan populated areas of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan since 1991.

Asked if dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama's envoys would be suspended, Khedroob Thondup said: "This is not a confidence building measure. Relations will not get better."

In 1995, the Dalai Lama and China's atheist Communist authorities chose rival reincarnations of the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989. The Panchen Lama is the second-highest figure in Tibet's spiritual hierarchy.

The boy anointed by the Dalai Lama, then aged six, swiftly disappeared from public view, prompting human rights groups to call him the "world's youngest political prisoner".

"The Chinese had earlier tried this endgame by propping up a puppet Panchen Lama," Khedroob Thondup said. "Now they want to foist their own living Buddhas on Tibetans."

China's presence in Tibet has become yet more controversial ahead of next year's Beijing Olympics, which activists hope to use to draw global attention to the plight of the region.

On Tuesday, Chinese police detained six Tibet independence activists from Britain, Canada and the United States who abseiled down part of the Great Wall unveiling a banner reading "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008", the Free Tibet Campaign said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing)
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