The United States wants the United Nations to take up the Dalai Lama's succession in an intensifying bid to stop China from trying to handpick his successor, an envoy said after meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said he spoke at length about the succession issue with the 84-year-old Dalai Lama last week in the monk's home-in-exile of Dharamsala, India.
Brownback said he told the Dalai Lama that the United States would seek to build global support for the principle that the choice of the next spiritual chief "belongs to the Tibetan Buddhists and not the Chinese government."
"I would hope that the UN would take the issue up," Brownback told AFP after returning to Washington.
He acknowledged that China, with its veto power on the Security Council, would work strenuously to block any action, but he hoped countries could at least raise their voices at the United Nations.
"I think it's really important to have an early global conversation because this is a global figure with a global impact," he said.
"That's the big thing that we're really after now, to stir this before we're right in the middle of it -- if something happens to the Dalai Lama, that there has been this robust discussion globally about it ahead of time," he said.
"My estimation undoubtedly is that the (Chinese) communist party has thought a lot about this. So they've got a plan and I think we have to be equally aggressive with a plan."
The Dalai Lama once traveled incessantly, drawing huge Western audiences with his good-humored lectures on compassion and happiness.
But the Nobel Peace Prize winner has slowed down and earlier this year suffered a chest infection, although he is not known to have serious health issues.
Brownback said he found the Dalai Lama "quite jovial" and that the monk had told him, "'Look, I'm going to live another 15, 20 years; I'm going to outlast the Chinese government.'"
But Beijing has indicated it is waiting out the Dalai Lama, believing his campaign for greater Tibetan autonomy will end with him.
China, which argues that it has brought modernization and development to the Himalayan region, has increasingly hinted that it could name the next Dalai Lama, who would presumably be groomed to support Chinese rule.
In 1995, the officially atheist government selected its own Panchen Lama and detained a six-year-old identified for the influential Buddhist position -- whom rights groups called the world's youngest political prisoner.
- Seeking 'unfettered' access -
Mindful of Beijing's plans, the 14th Dalai Lama has mused about breaking with the centuries-old tradition in which wandering monks look for signs that a young boy is the reincarnation.
He has said that he could pick his own successor, possibly a girl, or even declare himself the final Dalai Lama.
The US Congress has also stepped up efforts, including by mandating visa denials by the end of the year for Chinese officials unless Beijing eases restrictions on US diplomats, journalists and ordinary people seeking to visit Tibet.
Brownback said he would like access to Tibet, "but I want it unfettered."
He said he similarly hoped to visit the western region of Xinjiang, which has drawn intense US scrutiny over the incarceration of some one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims.
"It is part of the same war on faith," Brownback said of Tibet and Xinjiang.
- Fears in Nepal -
Brownback also visited Nepal, historically the gateway for Tibetans fleeing to India but which has increasingly clamped down under pressure from its giant northern neighbor.
Brownback said he raised fears for Tibetans with Nepal's foreign minister, Pradeep Gyawali.
But he acknowledged Nepal's difficult situation and said: "I would hate to be very harsh on the Nepalese because they've been so good over so many years to help the Tibetans."
Brownback said that the burden was ultimately with China to allow freedom of movement -- and not to interfere in Tibetan Buddhism.
"A government doesn't own a religion," he said. "A religion runs itself."
"We hope we'll get a number of other communities around the world to express similar positions and concerns."
In this Aug. 12, 2019, photo, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho attends a demonstration of an anti-riot vehicle equipped with water cannon at the Police Tactical Unit Headquarters in Hong Kong. Hong Kong police say an anti-government supporter stabbed and wounded the pro-Beijing lawmaker who was campaigning for local elections. The government condemned the attack on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 against Ho, a hate figure for protesters, and said police arrested the assailant. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Pro-Beijing Politician Wounded in Hong Kong Knife Attack By Jerome Taylor & Yan Zhao
A firebrand pro-Beijing politician in Hong Kong was stabbed by a man pretending to be a supporter on Wednesday, the latest tit-for-tat political violence in a city engulfed by seething pro-democracy protests.
The attack came as the Hong Kong's unpopular leader Carrie Lam said her resolve to crack down on the protesters had been bolstered by a recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On Wednesday, she condemned the stabbing at a press briefing in Beijing and said regardless of political stand, "any violent action... should not be tolerated by any civilised society".
The international finance hub has been convulsed by five months of huge and increasingly violent protests calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.
With Beijing and Lam refusing to offer a political solution to the protesters' grievances, violence has spiralled on both sides of the ideological divide.
In the latest incident, a man holding a bouquet approached pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho on Wednesday morning as the politician was campaigning in his constituency near the border with China.
Footage posted online showed the man handing Ho the flowers and asking for a picture. He then pulled a knife from his bag before striking Ho in the chest.
Police said three people were wounded in the incident, including the attacker, who was subdued by Ho and his aides as he shouted in Cantonese: "Junius Ho, you scum!"
A police source, who declined to be named, told AFP that Ho received a stab wound to the left side of his chest and the attacker was arrested.
Ho, 57, was conscious when he got into the ambulance. His bloodstained white shirt and wound dressings could be seen on the ground in the aftermath of the attack.
- Xi's seal of approval -
The stabbing came as Lam wrapped up talks in mainland China with top Communist Party officials, including Xi who threw his support behind the beleaguered leader when they met on Monday, according to state media.
"President Xi's trust and support to me and the Hong Kong government has strengthened our resolve to stop the violence and curb the chaos," she said on Wednesday as she met in Beijing with Vice Premier Han Zheng.
China has run the city under a special "one country, two systems" model, allowing Hong Kong liberties not seen on the mainland, since its handover from the British in 1997.
But public anger has been building for years over fears that Beijing is eroding those freedoms, especially since Xi came to power.
Protesters have issued a list of demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation into abuses by police.
Tensions have risen again in recent days after a teenager was left in a coma when he fell one storey inside a car park where police were firing tear gas at projectile-throwing protesters on Sunday night.
Beijing has shown no willingness to meet demonstrators' demands and recently signalled it plans to tighten its control over Hong Kong following a four-day meeting of party leaders.
Protesters have displayed no signs of leaving the streets with 22 consecutive weekends of unrest while fights have broken out with growing frequency.
Beijing supporters have attacked opponents throughout the summer, often in targeted assaults against prominent government critics and opposition politicians.
Eight pro-democracy figures have been attacked, including protest organiser Jimmy Sham who was hospitalised last month by men wielding hammers.
On Sunday, a man with a knife attacked democracy protesters including a local politician who had part of his ear bitten off.
But the violence is far from one-sided.
Crowds of pro-democracy protesters have routinely beaten their ideological opponents, usually in spontaneous mob violence during rallies, including a man on Saturday who was pummelled unconscious and stripped.
- State media jump on attack -
Discussion of the attack on Ho went viral inside mainland China, where the internet is heavily censored.
Four hashtags related to the stabbing racked up 550 million views and more than 71,000 posts on Chinese social media by mid-afternoon.
The state-run People's Daily and Global Times newspapers also linked to a video of the stabbing on Twitter -- a platform they have embraced to reach international audiences but is banned inside China.
As one of Hong Kong's most stridently pro-Beijing politicians, Ho has become one of the most loathed establishment figures among democracy protesters.
He shot to further notoriety on July 21 after he was filmed shaking hands with a group of men in the town of Yuen Long who went on to beat protesters with sticks and poles, hospitalising 40 people.
He has delivered multiple speeches supporting Hong Kong's police force and echoing Beijing's condemnations, often using incendiary language.
Last month, he accused a prominent opposition lawmaker of "eating foreign sausage" because she is married to a British journalist.