(CNN) The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must “comply with Chinese laws,” the Chinese Communist Party government has said as the Tibetan spiritual leader recovers in hospital from a chest infection.

Asked about the 83-year-old Buddhist monk’s hospitalization on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing wasn’t aware of the physical condition of the 14th Dalai Lama. But he added that there are “clear rules” regarding the reincarnation of “the living Buddha.”

“Reincarnation of living Buddhas, including the Dalai Lama, must comply with Chinese laws and regulations and follow religious rituals and historical conventions,” Lu said, adding that China respected religious freedom for all its citizens.

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since his self-imposed exile from Tibet in 1959 following the arrival of Chinese troops in the region, which Beijing claims has always been part of China.

Since then, he has become an international celebrity, winning a Nobel Peace prize and feted by some of the world’s top leaders. He has also remained a perpetual thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

The Dalai Lama’s private secretary Tenzin Taklha said Tuesday the aging monk had been hospitalized with a chest infection after returning to his home in Dharamsala, India, following a meeting in New Delhi.

On Thursday, Taklha said he would be released soon. “He had a chest infection and as suggested by doctors, he took some antibiotics. He is much better now,” he said.

But the spiritual leader’s illness has once again raised questions over what will happen to Tibetans and their religion when the Dalai Lama dies.