The Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the Dalai Lama yesterday for suggesting that his successor as Tibet's spiritual leader might be chosen by referendum, saying that this would "violate religious rituals."
The Dalai Lama has been considering options for choosing his successor, saying that senior lamas could follow Vatican practice and elect one of their number to succeed him, or that Tibetans might want to do away with the institution altogether. He has also mooted a referendum.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (
"The Chinese government has a policy of religious freedom and respects Tibetan Buddhism's religious rituals and historic conventions," Liu told a regular news conference.
"The Dalai Lama's related actions clearly violate established religious rituals and historic conventions and therefore cannot be accepted," he said.
Traditionally, a Dalai Lama's death provokes a search for his reincarnation among children born in Tibet at the same time. Many Tibetans fear the death of the current Dalai Lama, now 72, would be a major setback in their fight for more autonomy within China or independence, creating a leadership vacuum that Beijing could be expected to exploit.
In hopes of circumventing this, the Dalai Lama has long suggested that his reincarnation be sought outside China. More controversially, he also suggested in Japan this month that his successor could be chosen before his death.
"Anyone who tries to disrupt Tibet's stability and development will not have the support of the people and will not succeed," Liu said.
Meanwhile, nearly 200 people rioted last week outside a local government headquarters in Tibet, protesting over the police detention of two Buddhist monks accused of robbery, state media reported yesterday.
The crowd of ethnic Tibetans, which included monks, gathered at the Paingar township government office in western Tibet on Nov. 20, destroying some of the buildings there as well as nearby shops, Xinhua news agency said.
Three monks had allegedly robbed a motorcycle maintenance shop that day and police had detained two of them, Xinhua said, citing local officials.
Aside from the two monks accused of robbery, five of the 190 people who rioted were also detained, Xinhua said.
Local police and government officials refused to comment when contacted yesterday.
According to Radio Free Asia's Web site, police fired warning shots after they arrived at the motorcycle shop and later detained two monks named Yeshi Thokme, 15, and Dhondup Dorjee, 16. Another monk, Tsering Gyaltsen, 14, was left behind after being beaten by police for wearing a photograph of the Dalai Lama around his neck.