DHARAMSHALA, India — Tibet's parliament-in-exile rallied Saturday behind a Buddhist monk seen as the possible next spiritual leader for Tibet after police seized hundreds of thousands of dollars from his monastery.
Officers swooped on the Karmapa's monastery in Dharamshala, a hill station in northern India, earlier in the week, arresting an aide after $600,000 in dollar bills was discovered as well as currencies from another 25 countries.
Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan parliament, rejected Indian media reports that suggested the Karmapa had been bankrolled by China and was planning to set up a string of pro-Chinese monasteries.
"All this speculation that he is a Chinese spy is baseless because he has the confidence of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people and his followers around the world and the government of India," Tsering told AFP.
"The Tibetan parliament stands behind the Karmapa," he said.
The Karmapa fled Tibet in 1999 as a 14-year-old because he said he was concerned that Beijing would force him to turn against the Dalai Lama, who has acted as a father figure for him in Dharamshala.
The Karmapa escaped to India, risking his own life, to be with the Tibetan movement, said Tsering.
An aide of the Karmapa, who did not wish to be named, said the money was from the monk's followers and that he had no role in its management.
"All this money has been accumulated over the years, offered by devotees, followers of the Karmapa. The Karamapa's officials have clear-and-up to date records of the funds," he told AFP.
Police stood outside the sprawling Gyuto monastery where the Karmapa was staying.
Indian media reported late Friday that security officials wanted to question the Karmapa over alleged Chinese links, adding authorities suspected his flight from China had been "stage managed" by Beijing.
Indian government officials have not commented on the reports.
China regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist, despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet.
Beijing has sought to groom monks who would accept Tibet as an integral part of China and drop all claims for an independent state.
The existence of the Tibetan movement in India, which lobbies openly for autonomy or independence and denounces the human rights situation in Tibet, is a constant thorn in the side of relations between the two Asian giants.
The Karmapa is one of the most revered religious figures in his homeland and is seen as one of a handful of candidates who could step forward to lead the community once the charismatic Dalai Lama dies.
He has lived in exile in India since fleeing his homeland in 1999 -- an eight-day journey by foot and horseback across the mountains -- but he remains recognised by China, Tibetans in Tibet and the community in exile in India.
At the Gyuto monastery in the foothills of the towering Himalayas, the Karmapa receives visitors on a regular basis, many of whom leave cash donations.
He could never become a Dalai Lama, which is a title given to a child chosen as the reincarnation of the previous version, but he could emerge as the next leader.
The 75-year-old current Dalai Lama has said the institution might be abolished after his death and any choice over his successor is likely to take time and be bitterly contested by Tibetans and the Chinese authorities.
Dharamshala has been home to the Tibetan community in exile, including the Dalai Lama, since 1960 when India granted the community land and facilities.
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