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Fake Panchen Lama equates being religious with promoting stability

DHARAMSHALA (SE): A pointed remark made by Norbu, the man appointed by Beijing as the 11th Panchen Lama, during a rare visit to Tibet equated a religious person with one who promotes stability in society.

China’s official news agency, Xinhua, reported on July 25 that Norbu said during a meeting with government officials and senior cadres in Lhasa that Tibetans who do not protect social stability are unfit to be called men of religion.

“If a person does not protect social stability, he is not fit to be called a man of religion,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

The remarks from the Panchen Lama come at a time when 45 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in resilient acts of protest against Chinese rule, demanding the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and freedom in Tibet.

A majority of those who have been self-immolators are nuns, monks or former monks.

The elected head of the Tibetan people, the Kalon Tripa, Lobsang Sangay, has described the self-immolations a as political action and blamed China’s failed policies in Tibet—which he described as being founded on “political oppression, social marginalisation, cultural assimilation and environmental destruction.”

He said that these are the root causes of the protests.

“To understand these acts, it is crucial to know that within China, there is no room for freedom of speech and conventional forms of protest. A participant in a simple demonstration runs a high risk of arrest, torture and even death,” Sangay wrote for the Washington Post.

“Were the Chinese government to offer to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully through dialogue, the self-immolations would end immediately,” he told the United States of America newspaper.

The 22-year-old Norbu is commonly referred to as the Fake Panchen by Tibetans. He was handpicked by the Chinese government ahead of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year-old boy recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995.

Despite repeated international pressure, Beijing has refrained from disclosing the well being and whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents for the last 17 years.

Norbu currently serves as the vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top political advisory body.

Last year, following widespread resentment from local Tibetans, he had to cancel a long-planned trip to Labrang monastery in Sangchu county, eastern Tibet.

Threats of pay-cuts and loss of jobs failed to deter local Tibetan officials from complying with a Chinese government decree to prepare a grand reception for Norbu.

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