Dalai Lama hanging up political hat

The Dalai Lama is retiring as
political head of the Tibetan exile movement, according to his website.

“Tibetans need a leader,
elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power,” the
exiled spiritual leader said in a statement.

“Now, we have clearly reached
the time to put this into effect.”

The Dalai Lama remains the head of
state for now, according to Tempa Tshering, his representative in India, and
will remain the group’s spiritual leader.

“On 14 March, (the) parliament
will meet in Dharamsala (India) and decide whether to approve his
request,” Tshering said.

“He wants to make a change. He
has always believed in democracy and he wasn’t elected as head of state.”

If the changes are made, leadership
of the group would be passed onto an elected leader.

“Since I made my intention
clear, I have received repeated and earnest requests both from within Tibet and
outside, to continue to provide political leadership,” the Dalai Lama said
in his statement.

¬†“My desire to devolve authority has
nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility.

It is to benefit Tibetans in the
long run.

“It is not because I feel
disheartened. Tibetans have placed such faith and trust in me that as one among
them I am committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet,” he
said. “I trust that gradually people will come to understand my intention,
will support my decision and accordingly let it take effect.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry panned
the announcement, calling the Dalai Lama a “religious crook,” who is
trying to splinter China.

“He is the mastermind of
political activism,” said Jiang Yu, ministry spokeswoman. “He has
said many times he is leaving but this seems to be one of his tricks to deceive
the international community.”

The Dalai Lama fled China 52 years
ago on 10 March 10, 1959, after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.