BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese government official said fake living Buddhas were using donations to support pro-independence activities in Tibet and called on local authorities to take action against them, according to state media.
Local governments in Tibet should cooperate with their counterparts in eastern and central China and "take joint action to contain the phenomenon of fake living Buddhas", Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told state television on Saturday.
The government is building a database of legal living Buddhas, and may eventually make it public, the online edition of the official China Youth Daily on Sunday quoted Zhu as saying.
Tibetan Buddhism holds that the soul of a senior lama, or monk, is reincarnated in the body of a child who would then grow up to become a so-called living Buddha.
As of 2007, there were more than 100 living Buddhas in Tibet, according to the official China Daily.
The Chinese government has said it must approve the next Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule. He has said the title of Dalai Lama could end when he dies.
The search for a living Buddha such as the Dalai Lama is complex, involving divination, interpreting dreams, oracles and prayer, according to Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
On state television on Saturday, Zhu made no mention of Baima Aose, a self-proclaimed living Buddha in Hong Kong who came under fire from practitioners after he ordained Chinese actor Zhang Tielin as a living Buddha instead of via the traditional search process.
China's official Tibet website said a Tibetan monastery has called Baima Aose a "fake".
Fake living Buddhas swindle money from practitioners in eastern and central China and trick women into having sex with them, Zhu said, adding that they then return to Tibet and engage in illegal "splittist activities".
The Dalai Lama has denied Chinese charges he wants Tibetan independence or that he promotes violence, saying he only wants genuine autonomy for his homeland.
(Reporting by Meng Meng and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Ryan Woo)