Beijing: The Dalai Lama today conceded that he may be the last one to hold the top spiritual title in Tibetan Buddhism, even as he blamed “hardliners” in Beijing for holding back President Xi Jinping from taking an objective look at his demand for genuine autonomy for Tibet. Dalai Lama told the BBC that it would be better that the centuries-old tradition ceased “at the time of a popular Dalai Lama”.
He said whether another Dalai Lama should come after him would depend on the circumstances after his death and was “up to the Tibetan people.”
The 79-year-old spiritual leader, who looked frustrated over world leaders including Pope Francis shunning to meet him for fear of offending China, pointed out that his role no longer included political responsibilities. In 2011, the Dalai Lama handed these to an elected leader of the Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay.
“The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease,” he said. “There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won't come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad.
“So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama,” he said apparently referring China's assertions that it has a say in the appointment of his successor.
In another interview to a French broadcaster he blamed the hardliners in Chinese government for the delay in a resolution on the Tibetan autonomy issue.
He said that the hardliners are holding back Xi from considering the Tibetan demand for greater autonomy. Asked if Xi was ready to discuss his calls for genuine autonomy, Dalai Lama said he thought there were “some indications”.
“But at the same time, among the establishment, there is a lot of hardliner thinking still there. So he (Xi) himself sometimes finds it is a difficult situation,” said the Dalai Lama, who knew Xi's parents before he fled to India in 1959. “Now this president is quite active and realistic.
However, the old thinking is still very much well entrenched. So change is difficult,” he said.
Reacting to Dalai Lama's comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang discounted the hardliner-softliner view.
“Dalai must relinquish his desire for separatism, stop activities impeding the unity of the Chinese nation and take concrete actions to create conditions for his contact with the central government,” he said.
“As for what would be talked if there were contact, it would not be the so-called “autonomy of Tibet”, still less the “independence of Tibet”, but the future of Dalai himself. “On Tibet-related issues, there is no ‘hawk' or ‘dove' in the Chinese government or the Communist Party of China,” he said.
The spokesman said fighting separatism, safeguard national unification, territorial integrity and ethnic unity is the strong will shared by the entire Chinese nation. China in the past has held talks with Dalai Lama representatives over his demand for greater autonomy for Tibet but the talks broke down after Beijing characterised his demand for autonomy as cover up for separation of Tibet.