March 28, 2010

China Claims His Holiness the 11th Panchen Lama is “Living Somewhere in Tibet”

Recently, I blogged about news of China’s promotion of its own Panchen Lama. This week, Beijing assured the press that the true 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has not been seen or heard from since he and his family were taken into custody by Chinese authorities on May 17th, 1995, is “living somewhere in Tibet.” These are all the specifics we have. No outside representatives, press agencies, or other credible sources have verified this claim, however.

Gendun Choekyi Nyima, 20, was named the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama in 1995 by the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s highest figure whom Beijing reviles. He and his family, who are from a remote part of Chinese-controlled Tibet, have not been heard from since.

The last known photograph of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, taken May 1995.

Instead, Chinese officials selected another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the Panchen, but he is not generally recognized as such by many Tibetans.

Gyaltsen Norbu, who is also 20, is emerging as Beijing’s choice to supplant the Dalai Lama as the public face of Tibetan Buddhism and has taken on an increasingly political role in recent years. He has made appearances with Communist Party leaders praising Chinese rule over Tibet and was recently appointed to the main government advisory body.

In a similar vein, Spero News has a story this week about Beijing’s open claim to the right to choose His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s successor.

In other Tibet-related news, “Heavy Security is the New Normal in China’s Tibet” and “China Says Only Socialism Can ‘Save’ Tibet”. In addition, Mikel Dunham reports that “two days before the 51st anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in Lhasa, Nepali police were ordered to arrest Thinley Gyatso, the representative of the Dalai Lama in Nepal.”

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