China has been asserting that its assent to the Dalai Lama's successor is a must.
"There are many people who follow the Dalai Lama and don't live in China. He is a well-known spiritual leader throughout the world and deserves respect and deserves the succession process picked by his faith community...," US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback told reporters at a news conference here.
Rejecting the Chinese claim, he reiterated that it was an issue that should be taken up in international bodies.
The United States is going to keep pushing on that, said Brownback who was recently in Dharamshala and addressed the Tibetan community.
China accuses the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" working for Tibetan independence. The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in early 1959 to escape from the Chinese occupation and lives in exile in the hill town of Dharamshala.
"He used to travel so much, was such a great spokesperson. I met him several times when he travelled to the United States – just was energetic and lively and clear. But he's not able to travel as much now, so he can't really kind of carry the cause the way he used to carry the cause almost singlehandedly in the past,” Brownback said.
Now more of the international community needs to step up and start carrying the cause with him and for him, he said.
Responding to a question, Brownback said the United Nations needs to take up this topic of succession of the Dalai Lama.
"I think it should be taken up by the United Nations. It should be taken up by other international bodies too, but the UN should take it up, the European – a number of governments...around the world should take this up,” he said.
"Particularly, European governments should take this up that care about religious freedom and human rights.... This is something that needs to be addressed at this point in time,” Brownback said.
"We know what the Chinese are capable and willing to do because of what they've done to the Panchen Lama. So this – we are not going to be surprised what actions they're going to be willing to take. It's just we need to get there ahead of time and address it,” he said.
Brownback said it's the Tibetan Buddhists who have the right to determine the succession for the Dalai Lama, not the Chinese Communist Party or any government.
"To me, this is like the Chinese Communist Party, the government, saying they have a right to determine who the next pope is. This is not their right. This is the right of the Tibetan Buddhists to determine this," he asserted.
"The Chinese government has said repeatedly they have this right. You will recall they kidnapped the Panchen Lama.... We don't know if he's dead or alive. And they claim that the succession has to go through them, the Chinese government," he alleged.