Monday, March 8, 2010
Is the Panchen Lama in Tibet?
If it is true it is good news. But it seems rather strange that he can live in Tibet without being recognized.
China says missing Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima is living in Tibet
March 8, 2010
Jane Macartney, Beijing
China shed a glimmer of light yesterday on the life of a young Tibetan man who vanished 15 years ago after the Dalai Lama declared him to be the reincarnation of the second-highest monk in Tibetan Buddhism.
The son of a Tibetan herder, Gendun Choekyi Nyima was only 5 when he was selected by the exiled Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. Police swooped on the boy’s village in a county to the north of Lhasa and, pro-Tibet exiles say, removed the child and his parents.
He has not been seen or heard from since. But Tibet’s new governor, Padma Choling, revealed yesterday that the young man, now 20, is still living in Tibet, where “his brothers and sisters are at university or are doing regular work”.
He gave no hint as to the family’s whereabouts but repeated the Communist Party’s mantra: “As far as I know, his family and he are now living a very good life in Tibet. He and his family are reluctant to be disturbed. They want to live an ordinary life.”
The information amounts to a revelation compared with the secrecy that has surrounded the life of Gendun for the 15 years since he vanished and was described by human rights groups as the youngest political prisoner in the world.
The exiled Dalai Lama announced in 1995 that he had found Gendun and the move enraged Beijing: the Dalai Lama is revered by Tibetans and his decision was certain to win widespread respect.
The Chinese Government retaliated by naming its own Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, while Gendun is known only from a photograph of a wide-eyed five-year-old with ruddy cheeks, his mouth open in surprise at the camera.
Gyaltsen, also 20, gained a higher profile than ever at the parliament session that opened in Beijing last week. He was appointed to a senior position on the main government advisory body.
State media prominently displayed photographs of the young monk in his robes receiving Tibetan delegates who bowed before him.
However, Beijing has had difficulty winning over Tibetans to its choice and most temples display only photographs of his predecessor, who died of a heart attack at his monastery in Xigaze in 1989.
Robert Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University, said: “Certainly it is almost impossible to find any sign in Tibet or among Tibetans of a view that he is the Panchen Lama. The government effort to persuade people to accept him shows no sign of having worked at all.”
The governor of Tibet seemed happy to wait out the Dalai Lama when it comes to his own reincarnation. He offered a view almost certainly shared by the Politburo. “At this moment the Dalai is still alive, let’s wait until he is dead and then we can talk about it.”