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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China's Panchen Lama Appears Publicly

February 4, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — A 17-year-old boy picked by China as the reincarnation of
the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second-highest figure, pledged his
support for the Communist Party in a rare public appearance, state media
said.

Gyaltsen Norbu paid a "formal visit" Thursday to China's top legislator,
Wu Bangguo, at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's
legislature, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The reason for the meeting was not immediately clear, but it took place
amid increased sensitivity ahead of this summer's Beijing Olympics over
what critics say are China's continued attempts to subvert Tibetan
Buddhist culture and strengthen Beijing's hold on the Himalayan region.

Norbu "vowed to support the (Communist Party of China's) leadership and
make more contributions to the Tibetan economy and social harmony by
guiding more religious work to adapt to China's socialist society,"
Xinhua said.

Wu encouraged Norbu to "take responsibility to enhance China's
reunification and do more things that could benefit the country," the
report said.

In May 1995, the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled top spiritual leader, chose
6-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama. The boy and
his family disappeared soon after and have not been heard from since.
Months later, Beijing named Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama.

Human rights groups say Nyima, now 18, has been under house arrest, a
claim China denies. Chinese officials say he and his family are being
kept in a secret location for their protection.

Rights groups and Tibetan exiles are using the upcoming Aug. 8-24
Olympics as a platform to support their cause.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, has said he will skip the
Olympics in a move being linked to his support of the Dalai Lama, who
fled to India in 1959 following an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Many Tibetans say their territory was independent when Communist troops
arrived in 1950 and the Dalai Lama has campaigned for autonomy to
protect its culture. Beijing says Tibet has been part of China for
centuries and accuses the Dalai Lama of agitating for independence.

According to pro-Tibetan groups, the Dalai Lama supports peaceful
protests during the Olympics as a way to remind the Chinese public of
government policies the 72-year-old Nobel Peace laureate says are
eroding the region's traditional Buddhist culture.
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