Dalai Lama Steps Down As Leader

Dalai Lama Steps Down. The exiled Dalai Lama announced on Thursday that he will formally step down as political leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

“As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power,” the Dalai Lama said in a prepared speech on the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese control. “Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect.”

The Dalai Lama has long seen himself as “semi-retired” from political leadership with an elected prime minister already in place in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. He remains Tibet’s spiritual leader.

Beijing regards him as a dangerous separatist responsible for stirring up unrest in Tibet.

“Since I made my intention clear I have received repeated and earnest requests both from within Tibet and outside, to continue to provide political leadership,” the Dalai Lama said. “My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run.”

The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has progressively distanced himself from a direct political role and expressed a desire to live as a simple monk.

The exile parliament is scheduled to begin its next session later this month.

Just how much change will come, though, is highly unclear. The Dalai Lama’s political role is largely ceremonial — an elected prime minister is the formal leader of the exile government — but the Dalai Lama’s status overshadows everyone else in the movement.

MSNBC, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.