The Dalai Lama announced on Thursday that he would step down as “political head” of the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile but would remain as religious leader and continue to advocate “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet.
The Dalai Lama, 75, a Nobel Laureate, said he would hand over his “formal authority” to a “freely-elected” leader. He said he was committed to playing his part for the “just cause” of Tibet.
Making the announcement in his speech at the main temple in this hill resort on the 52nd anniversary of the “Tibetan uprising day,” he said he would formally propose on Monday amendments to the “charter for Tibetans-in-exile” reflecting his decision to devolve his “formal authority” to an elected leader.
“As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect,” said the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
The new “Parliament” will be elected when Tibetans across the world vote on March 20. By devolving his powers, the Dalai Lama hopes to give the “prime minister” a greater clout.
In a quick response, China said the talks of retirement “are his [the Dalai Lama's] tricks to deceive the international community.” “The Dalai is a political exile under a religious cloak long engaged in activities aimed at splitting China,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
In his 15-minute speech, the Dalai Lama said: “My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened.
“Tibetans have placed such faith and trust in me that as one among them I am committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet.”
“China, with the world's largest population, is an emerging world power and I admire the economic development it has made.
“It also has huge potential to contribute to human progress and world peace. But to do that, China must earn the international community's respect and trust.
“In order to earn such respect China's leaders must develop greater transparency, their actions corresponding to their words. To ensure this, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential.”
The Dalai Lama also said they had to find a way to keep the dialogue process going with Beijing.
Referring to the ‘Jasmine Revolution' in the Middle East in his speech, the Dalai Lama said he was a firm believer in non-violence and people's power, and these events had shown once again that determined non-violent action could indeed bring about positive change.
© Kieron Nelson 2010 "Vanishing Cultures Photography"