News and Commentary

COVID Stimulus Bill Strikes Blow At China Over Dalai Lama Reincarnation
NEW DELHI, INDIA - APRIL 4: Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a press conference at Hotel Andaz, in Aerocity, on April 4, 2019 in New Delhi, India. The Dalai Lama reiterated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet, but would prefer a "reunion" with China under mutually acceptable terms. The 83-year-old Dalai Lama has been living in exile in India since a failed 1959 uprising in Tibet. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The massive, 5,000-page coronavirus relief bill making its way through Congress strikes a blow at China, according to a report from Newsweek, by including a provision dictating the parameters under which a new Dalai Lama will be recognized if and when the current Dalai Lama passes away.

“Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in many countries including Bhutan, India, Mongolia, Nepal, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, and the United States, yet the Government of the People’s Republic of China has repeatedly insisted on its role in managing the selection of Tibet’s next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, through actions such as those described in the ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas’ in 2007,” the bill says in provision buried deep in section 300.

The bill goes on to rebuke any potential Chinese involvement in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

“Interference by the Government of the People’s Republic of China or any other government in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama and any future Dalai Lamas would represent a clear abuse of the right to religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people,” it says.

The current Dalai Lama, Newsweek explains, resides in exile in India after being driven from Tibet by the Chinese following an attempted Tibetan revolution in 1959.

In 2019, the Chinese government proclaimed that they would select the next Dalai Lama, even though the Dalai Lama is, according to Buddhist beliefs, reincarnated, not elected.

“The issue of choosing the next Dalai Lama has been in the news lately since the current Dalai Lama, now 83, said last month that he might not reincarnate at all or that his reincarnation might be found in India, where the Dalai Lama has lived since Chinese troops forced him to flee Tibet 60 years ago,” the International Campaign for Tibet said at the time. “His Holiness also cautioned China against trying to appoint its own Dalai Lama, saying, “in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from here, in free country [India], one chosen by Chinese, then nobody will trust, nobody will respect [the one chosen by China].”

“In response to those remarks, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson absurdly claimed that the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation must follow China’s laws and regulations,” the group added.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), in a speech on the floor of Congress in April of 2019, pledged that the United States would only ever recognize the “official” Dalai Lama and not a Chinese-selected one.

The omnibus bill on the floor of Congress Monday codifies that pledge and even goes so far as to direct the Secretary of State to establish an American embassy in Tibet, implicitly acknowledging that Tibet is a separate entity from China, and authorizes the U.S. government to sanction China if it happens to interfere in the Dalai Lama succession process.

“The Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom should support efforts to protect and promote international religious freedom in China and for programs to protect Tibetan Buddhism in China and elsewhere,” it says.

The Chinese will likely consider the language a stiff rebuke.

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