Many Tibetans believe that only the Dalai Lama can save Tibet from extinction. But even a Dalai Lama is mortal. And they are deeply anxious about what will happen when the present one dies. For Tibetans, he is not just a Buddhist monk, a god and a king – the latest in a centuries’-long line of spiritual and temporal rulers – but a larger-than-life symbol of their unique civilisation. For the past 50 years, from his sanctuary on the other side of the Himalayas, the 14th Dalai Lama has kept alive their dreams of survival as a separate people. Many fear that his death will rob them of their last chance of any genuine self-rule. Others predict chaos and bloodshed. Tibetan extremists might finally feel free to resort to terrorism, giving Beijing the chance to crack down harder. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, amidst a failed uprising against the Chinese occupation which had begun nine years earlier. Since then he has been the face of Tibet for the outside world. He has won the Nobel Peace Prize, the public backing of film stars, and the private support of presidents and […]

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