The Dalai Lama said today that China's Communist leadership can play no role in deciding who succeeds him as the leader of Tibetan Buddhism upon his death, and called Beijing's meddling in the issue "a disgrace." The Nobel Peace laureate turns 76 next week and has begun preparing his people for his eventual death in hopes of preventing his homeland's Chinese rulers from taking advantage of the leadership vacuum. The Dalai Lama has even floated the idea of choosing his own successor, whom he has insisted will be born in exile, while still alive.
Beijing, which hopes the Tibetan national movement will fizzle with his death, has responded by insisting the Dalai Lama will be reincarnated in Chinese-controlled Tibet and accusing the current Dalai Lama of violating religious tradition. "One thing I want to make clear, as far as my own rebirth is concerned, the final authority is myself and no one else, and obviously not China's Communists," he told AP in an interview. "This is a religious matter," he said, pointing out that China's atheist Communists don't believe in reincarnation, so can't decide a matter based in that belief. "It's a disgrace to see that they want to control that," he said. "They've become mad by political power." (Read more Dalai Lama stories.)