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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."

A bigger religious role in Chinese politics?

February 29, 2008

Independent Online, South Africa
February 28 2008

Beijing - A Tibetan spiritual leader picked by China's rulers is ready
for a larger religious role, an official said on Thursday, though he
could not say whether the Panchen Lama would be given a political
post.

"We can see...that (the Panchen Lama) is learning and making progress
and has established a high reputation among most of the Tibetan
people," foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao told journalists.

"I believe that he could play a bigger role and make greater
contributions to the religious undertakings of Tibet, but as to
whether he will be chosen for some political position, I have no
information."

His comments come amid speculation that the Panchen Lama, nominally
Tibet's second highest spiritual leader following the Dalai Lama,
could be named a top legislator at China's annual parliament session
that opens next week.

The atheist communist government enthroned him in 1995, rejecting
another boy selected by the exiled Dalai Lama in a move that defied
long-held Buddhist traditions.

The Dalai Lama's choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, immediately disappeared
from public view, aged six, and is believed to have been under a form
of house arrest ever since.

On his 18th birthday in January, Beijing's Panchen Lama met with
China's parliamentary head, Wu Bangguo, and was told to take up the
task of melding Tibetan Buddhism with Chinese-style socialism, Chinese
press reports said.

"I hope you deeply study the spirit of the 17th Communist Party
Congress, respect the party's policy on religious work and explore a
road suitable for both Tibetan Buddhism and socialism," Wu told the
Panchen Lama.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 and officially "liberated" it a year later.
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