Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dalai Lama to hand over \"formal authority\" to freely elected successor

BEIJING, March 10, 2011

The Dalai Lama\'s announcement on Thursday that he would relinquish his role as a political leader of the exiled Tibetan movement has cast doubt over the future of his on-going talks with the Chinese government.

The Tibetan religious leader said in a statement from his base in Dharamshala on Thursday he would devolve his \"formal authority\" to a leader \"elected freely\" by exiled Tibetans. He said he would make a formal proposal when the self-declared government-in-exile\'s parliament meets on March 14.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry described the announcement as a \"trick to deceive the international community.\" \"The Dalai Lama is a political exile under a religious cloak, now engaged in activities aimed at splitting China,\" Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said.

The Dalai Lama\'s proposal to step down — if accepted next week — has raised questions about the future of his on-going talks with the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama\'s representatives have held nine rounds of talks with the Communist Party\'s United Front Work Department, most recently in February 2010.

Ms. Jiang did not reply to a question on how the Dalai Lama\'s decision to relinquish his political authority would affect the talks.

She did, however, indicate that the Chinese government would not be inclined to engage with any representatives of the government-in-exile. Ms. Jiang described it as \"an illegal political organisation\". \"No country in the world recognises it,\" she added.

The Dalai Lama has historically been the highest spiritual and political leader for Tibetans, and he remains the most well-recognised face of the exiled Tibetan movement. He is also widely revered among Tibetans in China. Other representatives of the so-called exiled government are, by contrast, unheard of.

It remains unclear how the Dalai Lama\'s day-to-day role — he still advises leaders of the \"government-in-exile\" as well as attends political meetings — will change, if at all, after the announcement.

\"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power,\" the Dalai Lama said in his statement. \"Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.\"

Following the ninth round of talks between the Dalai Lama\'s representatives and the Communist Party of China, the two sides\' positions remained \"sharply divided\", said Zhu Weiqun, a Vice-Minister of the party\'s United Front Work Department, last February. He said then that any progress hinged on the Dalai Lama giving up his role in political matters.

Ms. Jiang, however, described his decision to do so as a ruse. \"He has often talked about retirement,\" she said. \"We think these are his tricks to deceive the international community.\"

\"The Dalai is a political exile under a religious cloak, now engaged in activities aimed at splitting China,\" she added. \"He is also mastermind and political colleague of Tibetan exiles [and their] activities.\"

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