The president of the Tibetan government-in-exile has warned China not to interfere in selecting the successor to the Dalai Lama, the current spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.
"No government should have any role in this spiritual matter and I think it is much wiser for China (not to interfere)," Penpa Tsering said in a recent interview with Kyodo News, adding that the succession will ultimately be decided by the 14th Dalai Lama.
Since the Tibetan government-in-exile has "nothing to do" with the selection process, then "how can China have a hand in that?" Tsering said. He added, though, that he has not "directly" asked the Dalai Lama about the matter.
The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled to India in March 1959 soon after the failed Tibetan uprising against China's control of the Buddhist region high in the Himalayas. He later established a government-in-exile in Dharamsala in India.
Choosing the successor to the 87-year-old Dalai Lama, who Tibetan Buddhists believe will be a reincarnation of the spiritual leader, is one of the major issues between Tibetans and Beijing, which considers him a separatist who aims at breaking Tibet away from China.
China has said it has the sole authority to say who are the reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist religious figures, including the Dalai Lama, as part of a legacy inherited from its emperors.
But the Dalai Lama has said that the Tibetans will not respect a successor selected by China.
Tsering, who was elected as the second president in 2021 of the government-in-exile, also reiterated his call for dialogue with the government of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who secured a norm-breaking third term as president earlier this month.
Tsering also underlined the importance of the Dalai Lama's proposal for a "middle way approach," which seeks a peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue with the Chinese leadership by finding common ground for co-existence.
Since 1951, the Tibetans and the Chinese government have worked to resolve the issue of Tibet's status within China through a "17-point agreement," but such efforts have yielded hardly any progress.
Tsering said his government believes that Xi's policy only focuses on "economic development" and fails to understand the "aspiration of their own people."
Tsering added it is important now more than ever to speak about the history of Tibet to the international community. "Because of China's propaganda now, everybody thinks...Tibet must have been a part of China for centuries, so we changed our tactics."