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<-Back to WTN Archives The New Panchen Lama to live in Beijing
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World Tibet Network News

Sunday, January 7, 1996

1. The New Panchen Lama to live in Beijing

HONG KONG, (Jan. 5) IPS - China has taken a big political risk by
bringing to Beijing the Tibetan boy it selected as the new Panchen Lama, a
move that could only deepen the Tibetans' distrust of the Chinese leadership,
Tibet watchers say.

Six-year-old Gyaltsen Norbu was hastily enthroned as Panchen Lama last
month after Beijing rejected Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, named by the Dalai Lama
in May as the 11th incarnation of Tibet's second most important religious
figure after the Dalai Lama himself.

Analysts say the Panchen Lama is traditionally taught by monks at Tashi
Lhunpo monastery in the southern Tibetan city of Shigatse, the seat of the
Panchen Lamas. "It is a very important issue where the child is brought
up," noted Robbie Barnett of the London-based Tibet Information Network

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper said today the child had
been brought by a special flight to Beijing last week with his tutor, Bomi
Rinpoche, a high-ranking lama, and is being held in a secluded villa in
Huairou county on the outskirts of the Chinese capital.

The paper quoted an informed source as saying Chinese leaders "are
afraid the boy may be murdered by Tibetans who believe the real Panchen
Lama is the one selected by the Dalai Lama."

But analysts say Beijing wanted to have the boy educated outside Tibet
to ensure he stays loyal to the Communist Party and is protected from
Tibetan separatist influences.

Most of the senior lamas in autonomous Himalayan region are believed to
remain loyal to the Dalai Lama and his quest for independence, making it
difficult for the boy to be educated there.

Reports that the child had been brought to Beijing surprised Tibet
analysts who had expected Norbu would be brought to Kumbum monastery in
Qinghai province, deep inside Chinese Tibet, if unrest persisted at Tashi

Kumbum is a monastery of some standing to Tibetans and the previous
Panchen Lama also spent part of his childhood there.

The move to bring the child to Beijing, say analysts, meant Beijing was
willing to take a major political risk, destroying the image it had taken
such pains to build up with the Tibetan people of insisting on doing
things the traditional Tibetan way.

"It is a huge risk to the Chinese because it means they will lose their
remaining credibility with Tibetans. It will create profound distrust
among Tibetans because it will be seen as interfering in the child's
education, which is supposed to be a religious education, not secular,"
said Barnett.

China had repeatedly said the boy would be raised at Tashi Lhunpo.
"They were clearly more confident a few months ago about being able to
meet basic Tibetan aspirations about how the child would be treated,"
noted Barnett.

The move to Beijing meant something had gone seriously wrong in the
Chinese calculations. In particular it is thought that the refusal of
monks at Tashi Lhunpo to toe the Chinese line had made the leadership

"It is so risky for the Chinese to do this that there can be no doubt
at all that the monks of Tashi Lhunpo have not been supportive of the
Chinese even after the arrests there," noted Barnett.

Nearly 50 monks were arrested at Tashi Lhunpo last year to clear the
monastery of opposition to the Chinese bid to select its own candidate for
Panchen Lama.

Tashi Lhunpo abbot Chadrel Rinpoche, the head of the Panchen Lama
search party which drew up the list of candidates and which the Chinese
accuse of colluding with the Dalai Lama, has been detained and held
incommunicado since May.

"The only way the Chinese were able to win support for their
candidate...from some of the monks seeking some power at Tashi Lhunpo was
to promise that the child would be educated and raised there," said
Barnett. "The strength and importance of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery
depends on the child being there."

Tibet analysts believe the Chinese will not keep Norbu in Beijing for
long because of the resentment it might generate. The issue would only die
down once the boy is brought back to Tibet, even if it is after a few
years, they say.

The selection of Norbu as the Panchen Lama at the Jokhang Temple in the
Tibetan capital Lhasa on Nov. 29 was rapidly followed by his enthronement
at Tashi Lhunpo on Dec. 9, considered an auspicious day in the Tibetan

The time gap between the selection and the enthronement was
deliberately kept as short as possible to ensure that Tibetans would not
have time to organize protests over the Chinese decision.

Tibetan analysts said such a short interval between selection and
enthronement is highly unusual, with an interval of a year being more

Articles in this Issue:
  1. The New Panchen Lama to live in Beijing
  2. Excerpt from the Epilogue of the Novel China Terror
  3. China promises high returns to gold investors

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