China and Dalai Lama vie for who selects reincarnation of Dalai Lama

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Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama made a speech in Japan this week in which he said that he expects to finalize his decision in 2025 about who his reincarnated successor will be. The Dalai Lama will be 90 years old at that time. However, China has reiterated its claim that the government has the sole only authority to choose the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile from Tibet since 1959 when he escaped the country in fear of his life, nine years after China conquered the territory. The Dalai Lama is considered a criminal terrorist and separatist Chinese authorities.

The Dalai Lama, who has been in Japan since early this month, said in an interview with Japanese news Asahi Shimbun that he will participate in further discussion before finalizing his decision. He also said that he will keep close watch on China’s reaction to his offers to resume talks.

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The officially atheist Chinese government last month reiterated its claim, however, that the government has the sole responsibility to decide the Dalai Lama’s successor, criticizing the Dalai Lama for not “showing a serious or respectful attitude on the issue.”

Both parties have already picked contrary reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, the “second holiest” monk in Tibetan Buddhism. In 1995, the Dalai Lama chose a 6-year-old Tibetan boy as the reincarnation, while the Chinese government chose a different child. The choice of the Dalai Lama and his family have not been seen since, although the Chinese government later admitted that it was holding the Dalai Lama’s choice in “protective custody” in Beijing at the request of his parents.

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The choice of the Chinese government was allowed to spend only a few days in Tibet and was brought up in Beijing.