Thursday, August 30, 2007

....and Don't Come Back Without Permission!

The history of Tibet is a long and often sad one, and the invasion and occupation of that nation by China in 1949 brought the independence of the near-mythical Himalayan nation to an end. China, of course, maintains that there was no "invasion," and that Tibet is a part of China; over the years, many millions of ethnic Chinese have been encouraged to settle in Tibet, displacing the native Tibetan population and changing the very nature of the country. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, has lived in exile ever since.

The Chinese are very sensitive to criticism of their occupation of Tibet, to the point that some amazingly stupid things can happen. According to an article on, the latest action in China's attempt to fully stamp out all traces of Tibetan independence is the banning of Tibetan monks, wherever they live, from reincarnating without government permission.

Yes, you heard that right.

I've always maintained that religion and politics can be a dangerous mix, and here we have an exhibit of what I mean. Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and by banning any Tibetan Buddhist living outside of China from reincarnating, the Chinese hope to eliminate the influence of the only such person who matters - the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual and political leader. The Chinese have named their own "official" Dalai Lama, and want to get rid of the competition.

Will it work? I guess we'll see whether the law, described by the Chinese government as "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation," will have much impact. My guess is that if people are going to reincarnate, they'll continue to do it whether the Chinese government gives them permission or not. The Dalai Lama is one of the few major religious leaders I respect and admire, and I somehow doubt that a Chinese-appointed substitute will ever be accepted as legitimate by anyone outside the Chinese government.

If the Chinese government wanted to do this right, though, they'd have done it the way my beloved Commonwealth of Virginia would: put a heavy civil penalty fee (not a tax!) on reincarnation. Now that would probably work.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



YO said...

I wish them good luck in trying to inforce that!
China definetely made a huge mistake when it invaded, ehr, settled in Tibet, from which they someday they will have to leave.

John said...

What if all the monks are reincarnated as Chinese government officials? Then they can change the laws, leave the country (Tibet, not China) and live happily ever after.

noisms said...

The Uyghurs have the same problem as the Tibetans. Xinjiang, where they live - which they call Uyghurstan - was once something like 90% Uyghur, but the Chinese government has encouraged (or forced) ethnic Han Chinese to settle there so now Uyghurs have become a minority in their own homeland. It's difficult to make claims for autonomy or independence if you're only a minority of a territory.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It sounds like China don't like to hear the truth. They might have to put up with some of it while the Olympics go on next year.

Random Magus said...

The mixture of religion and politics is the deadliest. Both are extremely powerful and have the capability of inspiring irrational devotion and unspeakable crimes in their names, used by unscrupulous people to manipulate others.