China yesterday called on the exiled Dalai Lama to respect the historic tradition of reincarnation, after he questioned whether it should continue.
"The reincarnation of living Buddhas is a form of succession special to Tibetan Buddhism, and the policies of freedom of religious belief observed by China naturally include respecting and protecting this form of succession in Tibetan Buddhism," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.
"There has never been a case of a previous Dalai determining the next Dalai. At the same time, the Chinese government has already issued rules about religious affairs and the administration of reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism," he said.
"The reincarnation of any living Buddha, including the Dalai Lama, should respect the religious rules, historical standards and state laws and regulations," Hong added.
Traditionally, high lamas can take years to identify a child deemed to be a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, a search usually limited to Tibet.
The central government says it has to approve all reincarnations of living Buddhas, or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. It also says it has to sign off on the choosing of the Dalai Lama.
The 14th Dalai Lama, in a statement posted on his website over the weekend, said the question of leadership reincarnation should be decided in another 15 years or so by himself and other leaders of Tibetan Buddhism.