Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

The Next Incarnation of the Tibet Crisis

The Dalai Lama is not waiting to be reincarnated to tend to the future of Tibet. Having announced in March 2011 that he was abdicating his role as political leader of Tibet, albeit in exile, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhists oversaw the April 26 election of a civilian head of government, Lobsang Sangay, in Dharamsala, India. Having an elected, adult civilian leader gets around the problems attendant on having an incarnate buddha as the head of government — that type of cleric necessarily being a child upon discovery and subject to the whims of Beijing, which almost certainly will try to pre-empt the exile movement's choice by imposing a Dalai Lama of its own. Nevertheless, Tibetans within the borders of the People's Republic are acting out their frustration with Chinese rule. Perhaps taking the lead of the Arab Spring, 10 Tibetan monks and nuns have reportedly set themselves on fire to protest repression. (An 11th cleric, a monk, set himself on fire after making the long dangerous trek across the Himalayas to refuge in India.) The Dalai Lama has tried to dissuade his followers from self-immolation — ironically, speaking out during an interview on an Australian cooking show. China may discover that the next incarnation of the Tibet crisis may be a fiery one.