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Tibetans urge China to release Panchen Lama

Beijing (UCAN): “The sole purpose of abducting the Panchen Lama is to deprive him of Buddhist studies and thereby hindering his spiritual influence on the future Tibetan generations,” Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile, said in a speech on May 17 in Dharamshala, India. 

Tibetans were marking the 20th anniversary of the naming of then-six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama—second-most important Buddhist figure in Tibet. 

Once known as the world’s youngest political prisoner, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was detained by the Chinese government on 18 May 1995 on the pretext of protecting him from being “kidnapped by separatists.” His whereabouts remain unknown.

Beijing appointed its own Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, following a process the government said was based on a ceremony first established under the Qing Dynasty in the late 18th century.

The issue is a serious point of contention as exiled Tibetans continue to reject Beijing’s choice.

The 79-year-old Dalai Lama has said that he views the process as a government dress rehearsal for his own death, accusing the Communist Party of “brazen meddling in the system of reincarnation.”

During a rare speech at a political meeting in Beijing in March, Gyaltsen Norbu noted that Tibetan monks feel their numbers are too few, a reference to the rarely acknowledged quota imposed on monasteries by Beijing. He warned of “a danger of Buddhism existing in name only.”

 

This has been viewed as a thinly veiled attack on China’s religious policy in Tibet, the first sign Beijing’s choice may be deviating from the party line.

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