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China denies Karmapa links, Tibetans express anger

by Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu, Feb 1, 2011

Accusation shows “India is keeping its mistrustful attitude toward China,” says official

BEIJING, China -- The Chinese government has denied suggestions that it had links with the 17th Karmapa, whose monastery was recently raided in Dharamsala, saying the accusation reflected the Indian government's mistrust towards China.

An official of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, which is in charge of minority and religious affairs, said media reports in India were inaccurate.

“The speculation by India's media, regarding the matter of the Karmapa as a Chinese agent or spy, shows that India is keeping its mistrustful attitude toward China,” Xu Zhitao, an official at the department, told the State-run Global Times newspaper on Sunday.

Voices in the Tibetan community here, including one prominent writer, also expressed anger on Monday at the allegations that the revered Karmapa was a Chinese spy, hitting out at Indian authorities' handling of the recent investigation into his monastery's finances.

Nearly $ 1.6 million in foreign currencies was found following a raid in a monastery in Dharamsala.

“Money from donations”

Representatives of the Karmapa, who is the head of the Kagyu sect and one of Tibetan Buddhism's most important leaders, said the money was from donations from his followers. They have denied Indian media reports which claimed that the money, which included notes in Chinese Yuan as well as other currencies, was an indication of the Karmapa's ties to the Chinese government.

The Karmapa is a widely revered figure among Tibetans in China – perhaps second only to the Dalai Lama, who is the head of the Gelugpa sect and Tibetan Buddhism's most important figure.

The Dalai Lama has indicated his support to the Karmapa, calling for a thorough investigation. He said “some negligence”, rather than a political conspiracy, was likely behind the issue.

Tsering Woeser, a prominent Tibetan writer and poet, told The Hindu on Monday that the allegations, whether made by the Indian government or State police, were “totally irresponsible.”

“How can currency being found be proof that he is a spy?” she asked. “Karmapa is the spiritual leader for all people of Chinese origin, home and abroad,” said Ms. Woeser, who has been a vocal critic of China's religious policies. “It is legitimate that he will get donations in Chinese currency. The government in India, a country which has so many religious leaders, should know that this amount is not even really that large.”

She said she was “deeply hurt” by the allegations. “I am sure many Tibetans are too,” she added.

Key figure

Ogyen Trinley Dorje (25), the 17th Karmapa, was born in Qamdo county in Tibet Autonomous Region. Recognised in 1992, he was the first “Living Buddha” whose appointment was confirmed and approved by the Communist Party of China, which took control of Tibet in 1951. Dorje left Tibet for India in 1999, arriving in Dharamsala.

The Karmapa has been seen as a key figure in the future of Tibetan Buddhism, and as a possible successor to the 75 year-old Dalai Lama as a leader of the Tibetan movement. The 11th Panchen Lama is the second highest-ranked leader after the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa sect. His appointment by the Chinese government has, however, not been accepted by many Tibetans.

While the Chinese government often criticises the Dalai Lama as a “splittist”, it has generally refrained from commenting on the Karmapa. The Chinese media rarely discusses either the Karmapa or his departure to India.

On Sunday, Mr. Xu said: “Karmapa left China in 1999 for the purpose of religious behaviors [sic], just as he claimed.”

Ms. Woeser countered claims that China's silence suggested its tacit support for the Tibetan leader. “Karmapa is completely different from the Dalai Lama,” she said.

“He is a spiritual leader without political power, so the Chinese government has no reason to point its finger at him.”

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