Wildcat columnists sound off on the zaniest stories from this week's headlines
The story: The Chinese government decided last week to regulate the reincarnation of Buddhist monks in Tibet, requiring them to seek state permission before being reborn. In a bizarre public statement, the State Administration for Religious Affairs called the new law "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation of living Buddhas."
The response: The new Chinese reincarnation regulation is the latest in the Dragon Empire's efforts to stifle Tibetan political leadership. Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, Tibetan leadership has been forcefully manufactured in China, covered in the lead-tainted paint of bureaucracy and colored a dull Maoist gray. The new law bars any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, effectively giving Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama. Several months ago, the Dalai Lama threatened to reincarnate himself outside of China so long as Tibet is under Chinese control. While this may not seem a powerful threat by Western worldviews, the Dalai Lama's promise sends a serious political and cultural message to the more than 130,000 Tibetan Buddhists who have fled the country.
Chinese efforts to quell Tibetan leadership are not new. The latest bureaucratic regulations, although still totalitarian and oppressive, are a far cry from the state-sponsored destruction of Buddhist temples and statues during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. In 1995, Chinese authorities rejected the chosen Panchen Lama, the second in command in Tibetan leadership, and chose a boy in China to become the next leader, who is conveniently being raised hundreds of miles from the Tibetan mountains. The Dalai Lama continues to be the strongest Tibetan political figure advocating diplomacy with China, refusing to embrace violent means of national expression.
The bigger story here is China's perpetual denial of freedom of thought and institutionalized religious repression. Chinese religious policy today is contradictory at best: official party policy severely restricts religion, but day-to-day policies offer rewards to cooperative religious figures, including state-ordained Christian bishops.
As long as Chinese officials peddle such unnecessary regulations, China will never be able to solve its more pressing governance challenges, such as effective enforcement on export standards. If China continues to produce poison-laced toothpaste and toxic choo-choo trains, the next Dalai Lama may not even live to be old enough to understand the controversy surrounding his birth.
-Matt Rolland is a junior majoring in economics and international studies.