For leaders of an officially atheist nation, Chinese officials have grown increasingly preoccupied with a question far beyond their temporal realm, twisting themselves into knots over the question of reincarnation and the Dalai Lama.
Mao Zedong (毛澤東) must be spinning in his glass coffin — not to mention the dust flying from Karl Marx’s tomb in London’s Highgate Cemetery — to hear straight-faced apparatchiks accusing the 14th Dalai Lama of blasphemy and trampling on the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
Comments at the National People’s Congress in Beijing this month would almost be funny — if the central question were not so serious for millions of people in Tibet, China and elsewhere.
The words coming from stalwart members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — the party that over the past 50-plus years has destroyed scores of Tibetan temples and truckloads of Buddhist icons and religious artwork, killed countless monks and nuns and imprisoned untold more — have taken Beijing’s Orwellian-Kafkaesque lexicon to new lows.
And that bar was already pretty low. Tibetans remember all too well that the CCP promised in the 17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet signed in 1951 not to alter the status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama; to respect Tibetans’ religious beliefs and customs; and protect the monasteries.
The current venom has been sparked after the Dalai Lama said he might choose not to reincarnate. Such remarks are nothing new from either side.
Four years ago, when the Dalai Lama suggested that he might be reincarnated as a woman, or that while he was still alive Tibetans should be polled on whether he should reincarnate at all, the Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs responded with its lengthy “Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of the Living Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism” that bans Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without Beijing’s permission and Buddhist monks living outside China from reincarnating at all.
The trouble is not just with the CCP’s vocabulary; it is the CCP leadership’s enduring racial and religious bigotry. The Dalai Lama fled his homeland to India in 1959, yet the CCP’s repression has not erased Tibetans’ loyalty to him. The CCP is so afraid of him that it continues to ban his photographs.
The CCP’s efforts to control the 10th Panchen Lama (something the Republic of China also tried — and failed — to do in 1949) were not always successful and after his death in 1989, Beijing’s machinations over who was to inherit the role led to two reincarnations — Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by the Dalai Lama in May 1995 at the age of six before he was “disappeared” by the Chinese authorities along with his family, and Gyaltsen Norbu, whom Beijing anointed with a Qing Dynasty ritual it resurrected, but many Tibetans consider a fraud.
Then there is the 17th Karmapa, whom Beijing thought was under its thumb until his escape to Nepal and then to India at the end of 1999, echoing the Dalai Lama’s own flight four decades earlier.
We should not forget the tens of thousands of Tibetans, including children, who have braved extreme hardships and the risk of death from the elements or Chinese border guards to flee to Nepal and India to pursue religious training and a Tibetan education.
The battle over Tibetan Buddhism is similar to Beijing’s conflict with the Vatican over the ordination of bishops and the primacy of the Holy See, except that it is tied to a much bigger issue: The survival of Tibetans, their language and their culture in the face of Han-centric repression and subjugation.
This battle should find Taiwanese and others, no matter their faith, firmly in the anti-Beijing camp.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
There are few areas where Beijing, Taipei, and Washington find themselves in agreement these days, but one of them is that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is growing more dangerous. Such a shared assessment quickly breaks down, though, when the question turns to identifying sources of rising tensions. Several Chinese experts and officials I have consulted with recently have argued that Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the Taiwan Strait is driven mostly by fear. According to this narrative, Beijing is worried that unless it puts a brake on Taiwan’s move away from the mainland, Taiwan could be “lost” forever. They
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who died on Thursday last week, coined the phrase “new Taiwanese” and used it in some of his public speeches. The concept of “new Taiwanese” was an important link in the chain of his political thought. Lee proposed the term in August 1998 on the eve of the anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. His intention was to consolidate a common understanding around the idea of “new Taiwanese,” and to embody the Taiwanese spirit of never giving up and not fearing hardship, and to create bright prospects for generations to come. However, after