August 30, 2007

Red Tape

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kim @ 5:04 pm

Travelling through eastern Europe shortly before the Berlin wall came down I can remember marvelling at how much the commies were into paperwork and bureaucracy.

But this story really takes the proverbial biscuit:

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

Erm…how to express how ridiculous this is, and how remarkably wrong-headed on so many levels? And also how you have to wonder how they are planning on enforcing it. On the spot fines for unauthorised reincarnations? Or are they going to try to “send them back” to get their visas?

The whole half-baked scheme was cooked up as a response to the Dalai Lama’s declaration that he refuses to be reincarnated in Tibet while it is still under Chinese control. But if this is the case isn’t China going to have to send its reincarnation police to another country to bust the newly born DL shortly after the present version (incarnation) shuffles off his mortal coil? Apparently not…the point of the exercise is to disqualify any monk reincarnated outside of China, because they won’t have the right paperwork. Hmmmm, I guess they must have a lot of faith in people’s respect for temporal rubber stamps. (And what kind of rubber stamp are they going to use anyway? What is the hanzi for Reincarnation Permit?)

A commentator on religion from the British Daily Telegraph got very angry about it and wrote these harsh words on his blog

It takes a minute or two to get your head round this stuff, but essentially it’s just more disgusting bullying by a colonial power that doesn’t allow freedom of religion. But, hey, China is an EMERGING MARKET so guess: does the West (1) give a toss or (2) not give a toss?

I see his point, but I am more inclined to see the whole thing as a farce which will quickly prove unenforceable and be quietly dropped. It would makes the Chinese government a global laughing stock, surely. Wouldn’t it? I mean, even Monty Python couldn’t come up with this idea.

One thing seems certain though, when the present Dalai Lama does die there’s going to be some trouble.


  1. I dunno, looks more like stupid reporting than stupid law making. If I remember the Chinese reports that I read (in English, I’ll admit) a while ago now (not the first time the Western press has been late to the game) the regulation was more about setting up a standardised process of selecting the reincarnation of lamas than requiring them to obtain permission before the reincarnate. And I don’t think it’s the first time the central government has played a part in the selection of reincarnated lamas- I believe the Qing Dynasty government also offered it’s stamp of approval to reincarnations. Oh sure, it’s all about keeping Tibet under Beijing’s control, but this report strikes me as the usual Western press blindly jumping on the free Tibet bandwagon without bothering to check their facts first.

    Comment by chriswaugh_bj — August 31, 2007 @ 5:00 am

  2. Hi Chris,

    You wrote

    “this report strikes me as the usual Western press blindly jumping on the free Tibet bandwagon”

    and it just struck me, and I know this is silly, that you have to be pretty daring to jump on a bandwagon if you are blind. Sounds like a risky maneuver!

    Oh yes, and thanks for shedding some light on what this new law is really trying to legislate on.

    Comment by Kim — August 31, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  3. That particular bandwagon makes enough noise that jumping on it, blind or otherwise, is not particularly risky a manouevre.

    Comment by chriswaugh_bj — September 1, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  4. Who cares what the Dalai Pajama says? He’s not going to be reincarnated anywhere because reincarnation is a bunch of hooey!

    Comment by DallyLamb — November 1, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

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