Representatives of Buddhist communities across the Himalayan region have rejected Chinese claims of control over the succession of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, supporting a resolution passed last week by senior Tibetan religious leaders at a meeting in India.

Speaking to the press on Nov. 29 in Dharamsala, India—seat of Tibet’s government-in-exile—representatives from India, Nepal, Ladakh, and other Himalayan areas, spoke out to push back against what they called interference by Beijing.

“There is a close relationship between the Himalayan Region and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, both culturally and spiritually,” Ganden Shartse Khensur Rinpoche told reporters after a meeting held on the sidelines of a major Tibetan Buddhist religious conference.

“Our gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama is immeasurable, and hence the issue of his reincarnation is very crucial to us,” Khensur Rinpoche said, adding, “Therefore we wholeheartedly support the three-point Dharamsala Declaration passed at the 14th Tibetan Religious Conference.”

Speaking afterward in an interview with RFA’s Tibetan Service, Khensur Rinpoche added, “Those resolutions are in direct response to China’s claim of their right to control over His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.”

Friction between China, Tibetans

Meeting from Nov. 27 to 29, top Tibetan religious leaders formally affirmed that the choice of successor to the Dalai Lama will be made according to Tibetan tradition and left to the 84-year-old spiritual leader himself, with no interference from Beijing.

“No government … will have such authority,” the Dharamsala Declaration states in one of its points, adding that the Tibetan people strongly wish for the line of Dalai Lamas to continue and to be chosen by traditional means.

“If the Government of the People’s Republic of China for political ends chooses a candidate for the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan people will not recognize and respect that candidate,” the Declaration states.

The question of who will select the Dalai Lama’s successor is a major point of friction between China, which insists on its right to choose the religious leader’s reincarnation, and Tibetans inside their homeland and around the world.

Tibetan tradition holds that senior Buddhist monks are reincarnated in the body of a child after they die.

Support sought from India

Also speaking on Nov. 29, Lama Choephel Soepa Rinpoche, president of the Buddhist Culture Association of the Himalayan Region, voiced his wish that the Dalai Lama will continue to be reborn “for as long as Buddhism remains in the world.”

“And we appeal to the next incarnation to be born in an area in the Himalayan region, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama is our principal guru,” Rinpoche said.

Noting that China has pressured India to concede to Beijing’s authority over the next Dalai Lama’s selection, Soepa Rinpoche expressed the representatives’ hope “that the Indian government will listen to the aspirations of the people of the Himalayan region.”

“And we intend to gradually approach the Indian government to throw their weight in support of the resolutions,” he said.