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Why Xi Jinping Is Afraid of Dalai Lama

WebdeskJul 06, 2021, 12:06 PM IST

Why Xi Jinping Is Afraid of Dalai Lama

“Armed with a comic law of claiming a monopoly of the Communist Party over religious procedures for identifying reincarnations of the next Dalai Lama, Xi Jinping looks desperate, helpless and funny in fighting the influence of the exiled Dalai Lama over China’s colonial subjects of Tibet”


It sounds funny that on one hand, the Chinese colonial rulers of Tibet are desperately trying to knock out the influence of Dalai Lama from the mind and hearts of their Tibetan colonial subjects even 62 years after his exile. But on the other hand Xi Jinping is going out of his way to claim exclusive rights of identifying and installing the next baby boy incarnation of the ageing Dalai Lama (86 this 6th July) after his demise. Beijing government has even passed a law which not only forbids everyone else, including the Dalai Lama himself, from the process of identifying the next Dalai Lama but also gives the monopoly of conducting this religious search process to the Communist Party of China.


In what Beijing prefers to call ‘China’s Tibet’ today one of the worst crimes an individual can commit is to carry a photo of Dalai Lama on his person or somewhere in a hidden corner of one’s house. This crime can cost a person or entire family jail term up to seven years and even loss of basic civil rights like one’s job or admission of one’s child in the local school.




About four months ago the troops of Snow Wolf Commandos, an elite unit of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) of China, which specializes in ‘anti-terrorist operations, swooped on a small Tibetan town Dza Wonpo of Sichuan province to launch ‘operation clean-up.’ The commandos raided every house of the town to search and confiscate photos of Dalai Lama. According to published reports, coming out of Tibet, the Wonpo action of Chinese commandos was in response to public outcry of Tibetan netizens against killing of a 19 year old monk Tenzin Nyima of Dza Wonpo monastery. Nyima was arrested along with six other young Tibetans for holding a public demonstration in November 2019 against China’s forcible settlement of local Tibetan nomads into a matchbox like houses in their area. Later, a top-ranking Communist Party Secretary named Yuan Mingguang visited the area to review the results of the raids. The raids for Dalai Lama photos were conducted because the party officials believe that the Tibetan demonstrations were because of Dalai Lama’s influence over the people.


After the operation was over, the inmates of a local old home were forced to hang photos of Chinese leaders, including those of Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese sponsored ‘Panchen Lama’, on the common walls of the old home and the living rooms of the inmates. Gyaltsen Norbu was five year old in 1995 when he was forcibly appointed by Beijing as the 11th ‘Panchen Lama’ of Tibet, two days after another six year old boy Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was endorsed as the real incarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by Dalai Lama from exile. Since then ordinary Tibetan people have refused to accept Gyaltsen Norbu as the legitimate reincarnation of 10th Panchen Lama, who had died in 1989 under fishy circumstances. Tibetan people strongly believe that the 10th Panchen Lama was killed by the Chinese government soon after he publicly criticized the Chinese colonial rule over Tibet. In May 1995 a search party of Tibetan monks, established by the Communist Party leaders, found out the Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the new incarnation of the deceased Panchen Lama. But Chinese authorities arrested the little boy, his parents and all senior monks of the search team on the ground that instead of seeking approval of the Communist authorities first, they had clandestinely taken approval of exiled Dalai Lama for the boy as the genuine reincarnation of previous Panchen Lama.


Over the past 26 years, China has been grooming Gyaltsen Norbu, now 31 years old, as the 11th Panchen Lama. Control over Panchen Lama is very important for the Chinese in their political games in occupied Tibet. He is technically considered as the second-highest religious leader of Tibet after the Dalai Lama. By tradition Dalai Lama has been the supreme spiritual authority of Tibet as well as the ruler of traditional Tibet until China occupied it in 1951. Following Dalai Lama’s dramatic escape to India in 1959, the Chinese government manipulated the 10th Panchen Lama to perpetuate their colonial control over Tibet.




The Beijing sponsored Panchen Lama has become more important for the Chinese government today because by Tibetan tradition the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama play important role in recognizing and authenticating the reincarnation of each other. Following the death of one the other spiritual leader also functions as a teacher of the incarnate boy. With the advancing age of exiled Dalai Lama, Xi’s desire of installing the next incarnate boy of its own choice is reaching the level of desperation.


Interestingly, common Tibetan people’s resistance against accepting Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama too is refusing to die. Even 26 years after his installation by Beijing the Chinese authorities have to use force and administrative authority to make Tibetan people attend his public meetings and sermons. It is interesting to note that even three decades after the death of previous Panchen Lama, ordinary Tibetans hang his photos in homes and shops and not of Gyaltsen whom people call as ‘Gyamie Panchen’ (i.e. Chinese Panchen Lama). International human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many parliaments, especially the European Parliament and the US Congress have been ceaselessly asking the Chinese government to release Gedhun or, at least, make information public about his personal safety. But Beijing has refused to budge ever since Gedhun and his parents were arrested in 1995. Chinese rulers have also left no occasion to present Gyaltsen as the ‘real’ Panchen Lama on many Chinese and international Buddhist platforms.




Xi Jinping’s repeated insistence that the Chinese Communist Party and the government hold exclusive ownership of the process of identifying and installing the next Dalai Lama only exposes his and the Chinese Communist Party’s worries and political intentions on the issue of next reincarnation of Dalai Lama. In response to these Chinese assertions the Dalai Lama himself has warned the Chinese government saying, “Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through legitimate methods no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.”


Interestingly the US government has passed a new law entitled ‘Tibetan Policy and Support Act-2020’ this year which warns the government of China and its leaders against interfering in the reincarnation process of Dalai Lama. European Union too has formally put on record its support for Dalai Lama’s rights to decide about his reincarnation and has asked China “to respect the Dalai Lama’s succession in accordance with Tibetan Buddhist standards.” But Beijing has shown no signs of listening to the advice of either the human rights groups or world governments or parliaments. As far as the people of Tibet are concerned, their undying faith in their deposed and exiled ruler the Dalai Lama and their open defiance on the puppet Panchen Lama has made it clear that the real challenge to the Chinese rulers of Tibet is from the people of Tibet. All this has, obviously, increased Xi’s annoyance and desperation on the issue of installing the next Dalai Lama of his own choice with official endorsement of the CPC.


(Author is a senior Indian journalist and a keen watcher of the Tibet-China scene for five decades. He is Chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement, New Delhi)


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