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    South Asia
     May 21, 2010
China stumped over Dalai Lama
By Saransh Sehgal

DHARAMSALA, India - The Dalai Lama's recent attendance at a cricket match here led Beijing to again taunt the Tibetan spiritual leader over past remarks that he is a "son of India", with Chinese media saying he is faking a passion for the sport to please his "Indian masters".

At the root of Beijing's criticism may be concerns that the religious leader will one day seek citizenship of India, where he has taken refuge for the past 52 years. This would complicate the thorny issue of succession when the 74-year-old passes away.

In recent years, the Dalai Lama has often referred to himself as "a son of India". At an event to mark 50 years of Indian hospitality to the Tibetans in New Delhi last year, he said, "I call myself a son

 

of India. Over the years Tibetans have developed very close ties with the country."

This led various Chinese media to say that the Dalai Lama no longer had the right to be the religious leader of Tibetans. The criticism was revived last week when he attended an Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match in Dharamsala as a special guest.

"The [Tibetan] religious leader was trying to prove himself a worthy son of India by participating in the country's favorite pastime ... Cricket is one of the most popular sports in India and the Dalai Lama of course has to have fun with his 'dad' since he wants to be a son of India," wrote a People's Daily editorial.

The Dalai Lama had no right to speak on "China's internal issue concerning Tibet", said the newspaper, if he were the "son of a foreign country".

Prior to the match, the Dalai Lama had held a "spiritual dialogue" with international players, blessing them with white silk scarves, reported London's Daily Telegraph. The spiritual leader reportedly told them that while he was never much of a sportsman, he once beat Zhou Enlai, the former Chinese premier, at table tennis.

Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakara and Mahela Jayawardene did not attend the meeting, as their government had said their presence might upset China. Sri Lanka supports a "one-China" policy and regards Beijing as a key political and military ally.

In January, in the article, "A look at the Dalai Lama's ridiculous Indian heart", the China Tibet Information Center said the spiritual leader's links with India were diluting Tibetan culture.
The Dalai Lama pleases his Indian masters not only by showing his willingness to be a "son of India", but also by effacing the originality of the Tibetan culture. The Dalai Lama uses such words to dwarf the rich Tibetan culture with distinctive local characteristics.

Why is he entitled to represent the voice of the Tibetan people? Furthermore, will a guy who betrayed southern Tibet to India really care about the well-being of the Tibetan people?
"Southern Tibet" is a reference to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own. When the Dalai Lama last year visited the state, Zhu Weiqun, the executive vice director of China's United Front Work Department, accused the Tibetan spiritual leader of meddling in the border dispute.

The China Tibet Information Center added in the article that the Dalai Lama's "son of India" statements show that he has become subservient to his "Indian masters" while trying to deny his Chinese citizenship - a rare occasion when an official publication has described him as a Chinese citizen.

Many Tibetans fear that Chinese government plans to simply appoint its own replacement when the Dalai Lama passes away, with a veneer of tradition and religion thrown in. If the Dalai Lama were to become an Indian national, the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama could take place outside China, far from its control.

The outcry in Chinese media over the Dalai Lama's "son of India" remarks comes despite his clarification in March. "I describe myself as a son of India because my mind depends on Buddhist tradition of Nalanda and for the past 51 years, this body has lived on Indian rice and dal. So, physically also, I am a son of India," he reportedly told friends in Dharamsala.

The Tibetan government in exile says his remarks are being taken out of context. Spokesman Thubten Samphel says the Dalai Lama considers himself "a citizen of the world", and that his ties to India are strong due to Buddhism's ancient links to the country.
"China should be focusing on the larger and more pressing problems facing Tibet, rather than dwelling on such small issues," he was quoted as saying in the Hindu.

"[This response] reflects the Chinese government's arrogance. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had no freedom in Tibet, he left for India, where he enjoys freedom. What he does or he does not do, depends on his choice," he added.

The Dalai Lama's joint secretary, Tenzin Taklha, told Asia Times Online, "He [the Dalai Lama] is a Tibetan and has lived most of his life as a refugee in India. He has long been a guest of the government of India."

Taklha added that the Dalai Lama currently had no plans to seek Indian citizenship, though some Indian citizens have individually approached him with the idea.

"It's amusing to see how childish the Chinese can be, even about his attending an IPL match in Dharamsala, where he has lived for 50 years now," Taklha said. "He was only invited as it was the first time a cricket match has been played in Himachal. Chinese reactions are too immature to respond too, it's amusing watching them and reading their articles."

Exiled Tibetans here in general also seem not too concerned with what the Chinese media say - they still regard their Dalai Lama's words as supreme. Tsering, an elderly Tibetan in exile, told this correspondent, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers himself to be a citizen of the world, he is a living Buddha and so he is universal. His soul is always for Tibet and Tibetans."

Saransh Sehgal is a contributor based in Dharamsala, India, who can be reached at info@mcllo.com.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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