The leader revered by the Tibetan community made the announcement during his annual Uprising Day address, a day which marks the failed attempt to overthrow Chinese rule in 1959.
“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 75-year-old leader said in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, home of Tibet’s government-in-exile.
The Dalai Lama said there had been repeated requests from inside and outside Tibet to continue as a political leader but that he hopes for understanding of his decision.
In his speech, he reiterated that he would not be withdrawing from the political struggle and would continue his fight “in the just cause of Tibet”.
The Dalai Lama had pronounced himself “semi-retired” in 2001 after the first direct election of a prime minister as the formal head of the exiled government.
Loyalty to the spiritual leader has remained steadfast, despite growing support for Tibetan freedom groups that demand total independence from China, in opposition to the Dalai Lama’s “middle-way” approach.
The leader has worked towards cooperation and coexistence with the Chinese in an effort to peacefully resolve the issue.
Following the Dalai Lama’s announcement that he would resign, China responded by accusing him of playing “tricks” to deceive the international community. China has sought to sideline the exiled leader by punishing foreign governments who welcome his visits or champion his cause.
The Dalai Lama was appointed “head of state” in 1950 at just 15 years of age, after Chinese troops moved into Tibet. He fled his homeland in 1959 after the unsuccessful uprising.