In another move expected to anger China, the United States on November 17 said that Beijing has no “theological basis” to pick the next Dalai Lama and asserted that the Tibetan Buddhists have been successfully picking up their own spiritual leaders for several years. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D Brownback in a conference call with reporters recalled his trip to India when he spoke with the Tibetan community. On China’s involvement in the succession, US diplomat said that “they have no right” to do it.
“I travelled to Dharamshala, India to speak to the Tibetan community that were assembled there in exile and to tell them that the US is opposed to China picking the next Dalai Lama,” said Samuel D Brownback.
“They have no right to do that. They have no theological basis to do that. The Tibetan Buddhists have successfully picked their leader for hundreds of years, if not longer, and they have the right to do that now,” he added.
Brownback also said that the United States supports the religious communities in having the right to choose their own leadership without any intervention of governments. This “certainly” includes the next Dalai Lama, said the US diplomat. This is the reason Brownback cited for US opposing China on the matter and said that it is “completely wrong” for Chinese Communist Party to assert that they have the right.
“That certainly includes the next Dalai Lama. So we’ve pushed back against that. We’re going to continue to push back against that. We think that’s completely wrong of the Chinese Communist Party to assert that they have that right,” he said.
The 14th Dalai Lama, now 85, had fled Tibet back in 1959 following a Chinese clampdown to the local population, and since then he resides in India. Currently, the Tibetan government-in-exile operates from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. With over 1,60,000 Tibetans living in India.
Brownback even accused China of one of the worst religious persecution situations in the world. He also mentioned the situation in China’s remote area of Xinjiang. Saying that it “will not help them in a fight on terrorism”, US diplomat said that the answer to extremism is not to lock everyone.
“The answer to terrorism isn’t locking up everybody. The answer to terrorism is religious freedom, allowing people to freely practice their faith, and they won’t fight you as much. If the Chinese weren’t at war with faith, they would have a more open society, but they’d also have a more satisfied citizenry that seeks to practice their faith and be left alone and left in peace,” Brownback said.
The United Nations (UN) has estimated that there are nearly one million Muslims who have been detained in the Asian country’s remote region. Meanwhile, activists claim that several human rights violations are taking place in Xinjiang. But, China has categorically denied all allegations and claims that the camps in the area are set up to provide ‘vocational training’ to tackle extremism.