This Associated Press photograph from Beijing, showing the level of pollution in China, suggests that the "Dirty Olympics" will be far from the showcase China's Communist leadership intends.
BEIJING, Jan 23 (Reuters) - A senior Tibetan lama and Chinese government advisers have spoken out in defence of contentious rules apparently aimed at empowering China to name the next Dalai Lama in the event Tibet's exiled spiritual leader dies.
China's State Administration of Religious Affairs issued regulations in July banning reincarnations of "living Buddhas", or holy monks, that fail to seek government approval, ostensibly to manipulate the centuries-old practice and legitimise future appointments by the atheist Communist Party.
Tubdain Kaizhub, himself a living Buddha and vice-chairman of Tibet's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the regional parliament, affirmed the regulations on Monday, China's official Xinhua news agency said in an overnight report.
Xinhua quoted Soi'ham Rinzin, a member of the advisory body, as saying the 14th Dalai Lama ignored religious ritual and historical convention to unilaterally decide reincarnations, disturbing religious order.
The Dalai Lama, 72, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule, but remains the single most important influence in Tibetan life.
China's presence in Tibet has become yet more controversial ahead of this year's Beijing Olympics, which activists hope to use to draw global attention to the plight of the region.
The Dalai Lama told Britain's ITV in an interview that Tibet supporters should protest peacefully in China during the Olympics to highlight their cause, the Free Tibet Group said in a statement.
"(In) the eyes of millions of Chinese I think (it) worthwhile to remind them there's a problem. That I think is very important," the group quoted him as saying.
Critics say China continues to repress Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whom China denounces as a "separatist".
The new rules, which went into force on Sept. 1, bar any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation for himself or recognising a "living Buddha".
Reincarnations of about 1,000 living Buddhas have been approved in Tibet and Tibetan populated areas of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan since 1991, according to a government Web site.
In 1995, the Dalai Lama and China's Communist authorities chose rival reincarnations of the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989. The Panchen Lama is the second-highest figure in Tibet's spiritual hierarchy.
The boy anointed by the Dalai Lama, then aged 6, swiftly disappeared from public view, prompting international rights groups to call him the "world's youngest political prisoner". (Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)