China attempts to control Dalai Lama's succession

Monday, 7 March 2011

China’s attempts to cement control over Tibetans through their religion reached another high point of farce on Sunday at the 11th National People’s Congress. The Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet, Padma Choling, decreed on Sunday that the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, does not have the right to establish the right of religious succession. Choling said that the Dalai Lama must follow the historical and religious tradition as interpreted by the Chinese Communist Party.

Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said:

“The Chinese government is well aware of the extremely important role of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan national identity, both political and religious. Efforts to control his reincarnation have subsequently been put at the centre of China’s policies to cement its rule in Tibet.”

The Chinese Communist Party has already passed legislation that aims to regulate the process of identifying reincarnated Tibetan religious leaders as opposed to such identification taking place according to historical and religious traditions (2). One of the core motives behind this legislation is to control the selection and education of the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. Stamping out loyalty and devotion to the current Dalai Lama and eradicating his influence in Tibetan society, to the extent of banning photographs of him, is central in China’s Tibet policy to promote what it refers to as ‘stability’.

Tibetans’ loyalty to the Dalai Lama is perceived by China as a threat to Tibetans’ loyalty to ‘the Motherland’:

''The Dalai Lama is not merely a religious figure, he is also a mastermind of separatist activities. No sovereign country in the world would allow the hanging of a portrait of a person like that.''

Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party in Tibet and vice-chairman of the regional government, Hao Peng, to foreign press on 1 July 2010


(1) For detailed information on restrictions on freedom of religion in Tibet, please see Free Tibet’s evidence submitted to the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission (July 2010) at

(2) Article 5, Order No. 5 of China’s State Religious Department Affairs on Management Measures for the Reincarnation of ‘Living Buddhas’ in Tibetan Buddhism (2007) (Order No. 5)

For further information and interviews please contact Free Tibet’s Director <a href="">Stephanie Brigden</a>


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