Penpa Tsering
Penpa Tsering
Tibetan Journal

The next president of the Tibetan government in exile said on Saturday that China’s government can have no role in choosing the next Dalai Lama, especially since its communist leaders don’t even believe in religion whereas the succession of the Tibetan spiritual leader is a deeply religious matter.

Penpa Tsering’s election as the head of the executive branch of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was announced on Friday.

Tsering’s remarks came against the backdrop of China’s insistence that the choice of the next Dalai Lama has to be decided within Chinese territory. China has contended the Dalai Lama’s successor should be chosen by picking lots from a golden urn in Lhasa but this has been debunked by the current Dalai Lama, who turns 86 in July.

Tibetans in Lhasa have been instructed to restrict certain religious practices during the holy month called 'Saga Dawa', in what appears to be yet another move by Chinese authorities to curb the religious freedom of the Buddhist population.

According to the Phayul news portal, this decision was notified in a circular sent by the Lhasa City Buddhist Association on May 9 ahead of the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar which began on Wednesday, which Buddhists consider sacred.

The reason for the order is premised on the risk of spreading coronavirus. But, the Lobby and activist group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), believes that the real aim is to further restrict Tibetans religious freedom.

"While coronavirus prevention measures are valid as the pandemic continues to afflict the world, the Lhasa authorities seem to be using them as a pretext to continue reducing space for Tibetan Buddhists to practice their faith during this holy month," the US-based group said.

The constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC), which cites the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), states that citizens "enjoy the freedom of religious belief," but limits protections for religious practice to "normal religious activities," without defining "normal," according to the 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom released by the US State Department earlier this week.

The report said CCP regulations allow only Chinese citizens to take part in officially approved religious practices and stipulate religious activity "must not harm national security." It further said CCP regulations control all aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, including religious venues, groups, personnel, and schools, and prohibit "accepting domination by external forces," which authorities said included Tibetans in exile, particularly the Dalai Lama.

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