China has no theological basis to pick the next Dalai Lama, according to a top United States diplomat, asserting that the Tibetan Buddhists have successfully picked their spiritual leader for hundreds of years.
"I travelled to Dharamshala, India to speak to the Tibetan community that were assembled there in exile and to tell them that the US is opposed to China picking the next Dalai Lama," Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D Brownback told reporters on Tuesday during a conference call, recalling his visit to India in October.
"They have no right to do that. They have no theological basis to do that. The Tibetan Buddhists have successfully picked their leader for hundreds of years, if not longer, and they have the right to do that now," he said in response to a question.
Brownback said the US supports that religious communities have the right to pick their own leadership.
"That certainly includes the next Dalai Lama. So we've pushed back against that. We're going to continue to push back against that. We think that's completely wrong of the Chinese Communist Party to assert that they have that right," he said.
The 14th Dalai Lama, now 85, has been living in India ever since he fled Tibet in 1959 following a Chinese crackdown on an uprising by the local population.
The Tibetan government-in-exile operates from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. Over 1,60,000 Tibetans live in India.
Brownback accused China of one of the worst religious persecution situations in the world today, if not the worst.
"It will not help them in their fight on terrorism," he said, adding, that the Chinese are trying to sell it to the world that this is an effort to prevent terrorism, but they're going to create more terrorists.
"The answer to terrorism isn't locking up everybody. The answer to terrorism is religious freedom, allowing people to freely practice their faith, and they won't fight you as much.
"If the Chinese weren't at war with faith, they would have a more open society, but they'd also have a more satisfied citizenry that seeks to practice their faith and be left alone and left in peace," he said.
He called on China to stop their war on faith, which will not be successful anyway, but against the Uyghurs, against the Tibetan Buddhists, against the Christian house church, against the Catholic Church, against Falun Gong.
"They are persecuting all faiths. And the big one that we announced today was this effort to really push back on the use of technology to create these virtual police states to persecute religious adherence.
"This is something they've done in Tibet, they are doing in Xinjiang, and rolling out in different places in their country.
"We want to stop this from spreading to other countries around the world or spreading more to other countries around the world," Brownback said.