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Tibet After the Dalai Lama

On the 80th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s future looks more uncertain than ever. Once he dies, China is likely to install its puppet as his successor, potentially leading to the erosion of the institution – and fueling the rise of a violent separatist movement in Tibet.

NEW DELHI – On the 80th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama, who has been in exile in India since 1959, Tibet’s future looks more uncertain than ever. During his reign, the current Dalai Lama has seen his homeland – the world’s largest and highest plateau – lose its independence to China. Once he dies, China is likely to install a puppet as his successor, potentially eroding the institution.

China already appointed its pawn to the second-highest position in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama, in 1995, after abducting the Tibetans’ six-year-old appointee, who had just been confirmed by the Dalai Lama. Twenty years later, the rightful Panchen Lama now ranks among the world’s longest-serving political prisoners. China also appointed the Tibetans’ third-highest religious figure, the Karmapa; but in 1999, at age 14, he fled to India.

This year marks one more meaningful anniversary for Tibet: the 50th anniversary of the founding of what China calls the “Tibet Autonomous Region.” The name is highly misleading. In fact, Tibet is ruled by China, and half of its historic territory has been incorporated into other Chinese provinces.

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