|China continues to see the Dalai Lama as a threat and that's why it has propped up Panchen Lama [GALLO/GETTY]
The Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibetans – has announced his decision to quit as political head of the Tibetan government- in-exile.
He made the announcement on Thursday, saying Tibetans needed a freely elected leader.
"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 an address in Dharamshala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India.
"Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect,” he said.
He said he would seek an amendment allowing him to relinquish his political responsibilities at the next session of the exiled Tibetan parliament in March.
“My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility,' he said.
Melissa Chan, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from Beijing, said the Dalai Lama’s announcement was not surprising as it had been said in the past by him as well as his administration-in-exile. She said it was just a question of timing.
However, he does remain the religious figure head of Tibetans and that is something China is not comfortable with.
By remaining the spiritual head he still can command the following of Tibetans, our correspondent said.
China continues to see Dalai Lama as a threat and that's why it has propped up Panchen Lama who also happens to be the member of China's National People's Congress.
The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharamshala since fleeing Tibet following the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries until Chinese troops invaded in the 1950s.