Friday, December 6, 2019

Politics of Reincarnation

China already playing politics with the 9th Panchen Lama (with Chiang Kai-chek on the picture)
My article Politics of Incarnation appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

A few months ago, a board was placed outside a monastery in Tibet; it stated that Government officials and Communist cadres were not allowed to enter the premises of the gompa as the Chinese State was atheistic.
One can understand that the Communist Party of China (CPC), religiously following the precepts of its founding father, is not in favour of any spiritual practices.
More recently, the CCP issued a notice banning retired Tibetan government employees from taking part in any religious activities.
According to Human Rights Watch, the notice required “all Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government and retired government employees – regardless of whether those retirees are party members – to submit a list by August 18 of any ‘retired personnel performing the kora,’ the Tibetan practice of circumambulating a sacred site.”
Though the People’s Republic of China is atheist by definition and does not believe in the return of a soul, it wants now to control the reincarnation of the Tibetan Lamas; read the "Management measures for the reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism" notified by the State Council on July 13, 2007, you will understand.
Article 1 spoke of “protecting religious concord and social harmony, and protecting the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism.” It asserted that: “Reincarnating Living Buddhas should respect the religious rituals and historically established systems of Tibetan Buddhism;” it insists on an old ritual rarely used, the Golden Urn, which can easily be manipulated …further “Reincarnating living Buddhas shall not be interfered with or be under the dominion of any foreign organization or individual.” In other words, the Dalai Lama is not allowed to be reborn in India.
Is China an atheist or a religious State?
The answer is: it depends on the interests of the Party. When it is convenient, it follows the Marxist orthodoxy, but when its interests differ, the CCP becomes expert in religious practices, particularly in the ‘reincarnation’ process.
Already in 2015, Padma Choling, then Chairman of the Standing Committee of the TAR People's Congress and then the only ‘ethnic’ Tibetan, member of the CPC’s Central Committee, created a flutter when he declared: “It's not up to the Dalai Lama to decide about his own reincarnation.” He objected to an announcement by the Dalai Lama that ‘his traditional religious role should cease with his death’. Padma Choling affirmed that the Dalai Lama’s renouncement was against “the Tibetan Buddhism tradition as the soul of a senior lama is [always] reincarnated in the body of a child on his death.”
Marx would have shuddered in his tomb, had he heard Choling uttering this Marxist blasphemy.
But this does not disturb the Communist leaders ‘in the new era’; today they argue that one can be Marxist and capitalist at the same time.
A recent development has brought some clarity.
On 29 November, the Dalai Lama addressed the issue of his reincarnation at a three-day Tibetan Religious Conference, a gathering of 117 Tibetan Buddhist and Bon senior leaders in Dharamsala.
On the occasion of the closing ceremony, the Tibetan spiritual leader told the rinpoches that there was no hurry to talk about his reincarnation; he affirmed “I am fine physically and mentally — is there any hurry to talk about my reincarnation?” He added that he will consult his advisors to decide on his reincarnation when he turns 90.
This is a welcome change from some contradictory statements made earlier, particularly that he was not keen to ‘return’, that the system was ‘medieval’ or that he will come back as an attractive lady.
On the first day of the Conference, the assembled Lamas had passed an important three-point resolution to counter China. The first point mentioned was the Karmic bond between the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan people which is ‘unbreakable’; it added that all Tibetans “genuinely wish for the continuation of the Institution and Reincarnation of the Dalai Lama in the future.” The Dalai Lama was supplicated to ‘come back’.
The second point made it clear that “the authority of decision concerning the way and the manner in which the next reincarnation of the XIV Dalai Lama should appear solely rests with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama himself. No government or otherwise will have such authority.”
It was the best way to counteract Beijing’s stance (and religious new ‘skills’). The third point, the monks’ gathering urged that “the same unique Tibetan traditional method, which has been continuously used until now, will be followed.”
Though it says that this method conforms to “the basic philosophy and tenets of the Buddhadharma and originated in Tibet over 800 years ago,” no details were provided, leaving the door opened to possible manipulation by China.
Incidentally, it is regrettable that among the 117 senior monks, the feminine gender was not represented; this is probably one of the reasons why the Dalai Lama terms the system as ‘medieval’.
The Chinese are aware that the reincarnation system is not purely a religious affair; it has always had a political angle. One historical example is the strife between the Ninth Panchen and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama which revolved around taxes to be paid by the Panchen Lama estate to the Dalai Lama’s government. As the result of the dispute, the Panchen took refuge in China in 1923; he was well-looked after by the Kuomintang, who had an eye on Tibet. A Chinese scholar recently wrote that “the treatment of the Ninth Panchen Lama was further enhanced in response to [China’s] needs on the border [with India]. In June 1931, the National Government appointed the Ninth Panchen Lama as an ambassador and set up an agency which was given a hefty monthly budget of 15,000 yuans.”
The Panchen Lama himself received 120,000 yuans monthly; it was not a salary said the scholar, but "for his personal expenses and the living expenses of his followers and monks.”
The fact that the US Congress recently passed a bill on the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders shows that it is still a highly political issue today.
The Tibetans should be left alone to decide their spiritual future, but even if India does not interfere, Delhi does have high stakes in the issue, particularly in connection with the Himalayan region where Buddhism has so far played a stabilizing role. The Dalai Lama is hopefully aware of this.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Xi Jinping's many problems: Hong Kong to Xinjiang

My article Xi Jinping's many problems: Hong Kong to Xinjiang appeared in Mail Today/DailyO.

Here is the link...

Beijing faced a 'tsunami' in favour of the pro-democracy movement and then its atrocities on Uyghur Muslims were exposed to the world.

Since his visit to Mamallapuram, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been facing a rough sea at home. The 4th plenary session of the 19th Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee was held in Beijing from October 28 to 31. The members discussed the work report presented by Xi and adopted it "to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics".
The complicated situation of increasing risk challenges at home and abroad," was mentioned in the communiqué. The gathering "upheld the principle of 'one country, two systems', maintaining lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and promoting the peaceful reunification of China." Today, it looks like a distant dream.

Hong Kong polls
Beijing did not expect a 'tsunami' in favour of the pro-democracy movement which won 392 out of 452 seats in the Hong Kong local elections. Anti-Beijing candidates took control of 17 out of 18 district councils. "Xinhua waited until Monday afternoon to release a two-paragraph news report on the polls, stating only that the elections took place and 18 districts produced results," The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Meanwhile, the People's Daily just spoke of the history of US intervention in foreign elections.
In the weeks preceding the elections, the Global Times repeatedly claimed that a 'silent majority' in Hong Kong was condemning the protests. What complicates Xi's life further is that their victory could give pro-democracy candidates a larger say in the selection process for the next chief executive as they control of 117 seats on the 1,200-member selection committee. "This shift in the balance of power will mean that Beijing will be more reliant on the major property developers and their business associates — at a time when Beijing has been trying to wean itself away from [them]," SCMP said. So, the 'tycoons' may decide who will be the Communist leader of the semi-autonomous region. That is not the only problem of Mr Xi.

Spy gone rogue

Wang Liqiang, who spied for China for many years, recently defected to Australia. He wrote a 12-page Chinese-language confession on some disturbing aspects of Beijing's political interference. The Age in Australia cited a few: "efforts to manipulate Taiwan's elections, infiltration of student organisations in Hong Kong, and even the kidnapping of political dissidents. [Wang gave] names of organisations and key figures in Chinese military intelligence." Wang, probably one of the first operatives from China to blow his cover, is now seeking protection in Australia.
To make things worse, on November 16, The New York Times published excerpts of 403 pages of internal classified documents on China's crackdown on Xinjiang. It is an unprecedented insider's view on the clampdown and, particularly, the internment camps, where more than one million Muslims are kept.
"As the government presented its efforts in Xinjiang to the public as benevolent and unexceptional, [Beijing] discussed and organised a ruthless and extraordinary campaign in these internal communications. Senior party leaders are recorded ordering drastic and urgent action against extremist violence, including the mass detentions, and discussing the consequences with cool detachment," the NYT reported.
"The documents show China's plans for sweeping extrajudicial detentions and internment camps in Xinjiang are all signed by one man: Zhu Hailun," the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists noted. Zhu came to Xinjiang in 1975 as part of a party initiative to send educated urban youth to live in the countryside to further China's Maoist revolution. But they should not forget Chen Quanguo, the party boss in Xinjiang. At the end of August 2016, Chen was sent from his post in Tibet to 'pacify' the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The party believed that Zhang Chunxian, Chen's predecessor in Xinjiang, could not deliver the goods. For Chen, it was a reward for his 'Tibet recipe' as he was soon promoted to the all-powerful politburo. In five years, he managed to 'stabilise' Tibet. What was the recipe? First, utter ruthlessness. Second, Chen transformed the plateau into a vast Disneyland: Chinese tourists descended on Tibet in waves to experience the 'Paradise on Earth' with its blue sky, pristine lakes and rivers, luxuriant forests and deep canyons.

Uyghur secret out
Chen used powerful slogans such as 'Social management', 'Comprehensive Rectification', 'Preventive Control', 'Eliminate-Unseen-Threats', 'Nets-in-the-Sky-Traps-on-the-Ground' or 'Copper-Ramparts-Iron-Walls'. The latter translates into "an impenetrable public security defense network consisting of citizen patrols, border security posts, police check posts, surveillance systems... and other mechanisms." This was the recipe to control the Tibetan plateau.
In Xinjiang, Chen added the infamous internment camps. I almost forgot to mention one more headache of Xi's: US President Donald J. Trump, who is threatening him with a trade war. Also, as I concluded this article, the news came that Yonten, a 24 year-old Tibetan man from Ngawa in Eastern Tibet, immolated himself protesting the Chinese rule in Tibet. He is the 156th to do so.
India is indeed a 'cool' country in comparison.