Wang Chunhuan (Wang), deputy director of the Theoretical Marxism Institute with the Tibet Autonomous Region Academy of Social Sciences (TARASS)
The separatist movement led by the Dalai Lama group, and their connection with the recent wave of self-immolations in Tibetan areas, was among the hottest topics during the recent two sessions. What's the Dalai Lama's influence in Tibet? What could happen in the post-Dalai era? Global Times (GT) reporter Huang Jingjing talked to Wang Chunhuan (Wang), deputy director of the Theoretical Marxism Institute with the Tibet Autonomous Region Academy of Social Sciences (TARASS), and Guo Kefan (Guo), deputy director of the Contemporary Tibetan Research Institute with TARASS, on these issues.
GT: How influential is the Dalai Lama in Tibet?
Wang: According to our research, some Tibetans still believe in the Dalai, although they do not enshrine his portrait of the Dalai. As one of the leaders of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai still has some influence. But these Tibetans don't support the Dalai's separatist activities.
Due to intervention of the West, a few youngsters also believe in the Dalai. For example, the Dalai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the US Congressional Gold Medal. But this kind of admiration is not religious or true belief.
Guo: We cannot make sweeping judgment on the Dalai's influence. In some border areas like Nyingchi and Shannan, religious custom is light, and the Dalai's influence is much smaller than inland areas in Tibet. In those places where the Bon religion is practiced, the Dalai's influence is much slimmer.
The ordinary believers are very different from those professional religious followers. They will not dig into the dogma of religion.
Guo Kefan (Guo), deputy director of the Contemporary Tibetan Research Institute with TARASS
GT: What could happen after the Dalai dies?
Guo: There are two questions we have to deal with. The first is the Dalai's reincarnation. The other is who will lead and support the Central Tibetan Administration, "the Tibetan government-in-exile," and what impact it will have on China.
We believe that the "government-in-exile" will not pass the leadership to any other sects in the post-Dalai era. The biggest reality is that the "government-in-exile" will continue to exist and be led by a team. But the new leader won't have the same international appeal and influence. As a result, if we do not choose an incarnation, it's not good for us. Reincarnation must be carried out in accordance with religious and historical tradition, and display the authority of the central government.
In fact, the central government has the complete power to stop the reincarnation of any living Buddha. There is a precedent. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Qianlong suspended the reincarnation of the head of the Karma Kagyu school, due to his collusion with the Gurkhas in Nepal in 1785 and his violation of national law. But the current situation is different. Allowing the reincarnation of the Dalai is better than stopping it.
Wang: According to our analysis, the Dalai's reincarnation is very likely. Possibly, there will be two reincarnations. One will be chosen in strict compliance with religious rituals and conventions, and approved by the central government. The other will be chosen by the exiles. Of course, we will not recognize the outside one.
What we need to do now is to trust the people, develop the economy, improve their livelihood, and enrich their material and cultural life. In Tibet, the Party and the government are making efforts to promote the construction of grass-root organizations, boost social management innovation and livelihood projects, and intensify social cohesion.
Recently in Tibet, more than 20,000 officials from government bodies or institutes were dispatched to over 5,000 villages. They are required to live and eat with the villagers, understand their demands and help them solve problems promptly.
GT: The Dalai declared resignation from the "government-in-exile" last March. A new leader has been announced. How do you see this?
Guo: The Dalai question is in practice one between China and the US. It should be an internal affair. Without the support and intervention of the international forces, there would be no Dalai question. The "government-in-exile" is a result of this support and enticement. Since George H. W. Bush, every US President has met the Dalai. I think China should take tougher attitudes when those leaders meet Dalai next time.
Wang: The Dalai group has been a card for the US to provoke China. As early as the 1980s when the relationship between China, Soviet Union and the US was stable, the "Tibetan independence movement" was almost dead. But after the Cold War, the US resumed interfering in Tibetan affairs and increased its support to the Dalai group. Without US support, the "government-in-exile" alone would be nothing.
GT: The 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, is now 22 years old. Some have said it's time for him to spend more time in Tibet and study Buddhism, which will also be conducive to his work in a post-Dalai era. What do you think of that?
Wang: The idols people believe in now are diversified, and the personality cult has been broken. The government is now guiding public to believe in religion according to law. The Panchen is a member of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. According to tradition, whenever he believes is a religious affair, which will not be interfered by the Party and government. In history, the Panchen Lamas have been patriotic. The 11th Panchen is a Chinese citizen as well. He also firmly opposes separatism, and he will fulfill his duty as a citizen.
Guo: I have no idea how profound the Panchen's learning is. Actually, he held religious activities nearly every year in Tibet. It's not a time of unification of the state and the religion anymore. The role that religious leaders play has changed as well.