August 23, 2011
The Chinese-elected Panchen Lama, a religious position traditionally recognised as the second most prestigious in Tibet, has praised the level of religious freedom practised by Monks in the region. The declaration comes eight days following the self-immolation of Tibetan Monk Tsewang Norbu on 15 August 2011.
Below is an article published by The Washington Post:
A Tibetan spiritual leader installed by China’s communist government against the Dalai Lama’s wishes has finished a trip to a major Buddhist monastery with comments unlikely to endear him to an already skeptical Tibetan public.
The Panchen Lama is the second-ranked religious leader to Tibetans, after the Dalai Lama, but most Tibetans do not accept him because he was appointed by Beijing. The original boy selected by the Dalai Lama in 1995 has not been heard from since, with suspicion falling on Beijing.
According to a report Tuesday [23 August 2011] by the official Xinhua News Agency, the Panchen Lama said he was impressed by the amount of religious freedom enjoyed by Buddhists near the remote Labrang Monastery that has been the scene of numerous anti-Beijing protests.
The comments are likely to reinforce the belief among Tibetans that he is not the true Panchen Lama.
Beijing’s Panchen Lama, who was selected when he was 6 years old and is also known as Gyaltsen Norbu, has taken on an increasingly political role in recent years. The now 21-year-old has made appearances with Communist Party leaders praising Chinese rule over Tibet and been appointed to the main government advisory body.
The monastery is one of the most important outside of Tibet and was the site of numerous protests by monks following deadly ethnic riots in Tibet in 2008 that were the most sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.
During a 13-day trip that ended Sunday [21 August 2011], the Panchen Lama also gave cash to poor local families, toured government-built houses for nomads and told locals to uphold national unity and obey the law, Xinhua said.
The trip was the latest attempt by Beijing to burnish his religious credentials. It also saw security stepped up in the area prior to his arrival, with Chinese tourism officials saying at the start of the trip that foreigners had been barred from the county.
The Washington-based activist group International Campaign for Tibet said that monks in the area feared the visit could trigger more repression and patriotic education.
The dispute over the Panchen Lama has also raised questions and concerns about what will happen when the 76-year-old Dalai Lama dies.
China has left little doubt that it intends to be deeply involved in choosing the next Dalai Lama and insists that religious law requires the reincarnation be born in a Tibetan area under Chinese control. The Dalai Lama has said his successor will be born in exile and has even floated the idea of choosing his own successor while still alive.
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