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Dalai Lama says he will give up his political role in Tibet

The country’s spiritual leader denies that he feels disheartened by the continuing undermining of his influence by China.

The Dalai Lama on Thursday
The Dalai Lama on Thursday
Image: AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia

THE DALAI LAMA will be giving up his political role in Tibet’s government-in-exile, shifting that power to an elected representative it was announced today.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, speaking on the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in the Himalayan region, said the time has come “to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.”

He has long insisted that he wants the exile government, based in this Indian hill town of Dharmsala, to have more power, and has previously said he wants to give up his political roles.

On Thursday, though, he laid down a timeline, saying he would propose amendments to the exile constitution during the exile parliament’s next session, which begins later this month.

Just how much change will come, though, is highly unclear. While the elected parliament officially wields great power in the exile community, the Dalai Lama status means he overshadows everyone else.

The 76-year-old remains deeply revered by most Tibetans despite China’s decades-long campaign to undermine his influence.

China regards him as a separatist intent on overthrowing Chinese rule over the Himalayan region.

The Dalai Lama who has long insisted he simply wants more autonomy for the Tibetan people within China, called on Beijing to ease its rule in Tibet, saying in a speech:

Tibetans live in constant fear and anxiety. The ongoing oppression of the Tibetan people has provoked widespread, deep resentment against current official policies.

Samdhong Rinpoche, the current exile prime minister, later indicated that the political transition may not happen soon.

“Despite His Holiness’ request, the people and the government do not feel competent to lead ourselves,” he told reporters, calling the transition “a long and difficult process.”

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In the past, the parliament-in-exile has officially asked the Dalai Lama not to give up any of his powers.

The Dalai Lama said he had received repeated requests from within Tibet and outside to retain his political role, but his decision would provide a leader “elected freely by the Tibetan people,” adding:

My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened.

- AP

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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