The Panchen Lama seating with Party bosses in Lhasa
The bosses of the People’s Republic of China have recently decided to invest in propaganda (sorry, publicity) to highlight the ‘Chinese Model’ of governance. And Beijing, unlike European countries, is not broke; they are ready to pour a few billion dollars into the venture.
The Central Publicity Department (earlier known as the Propaganda Department) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is an internal organ of the CCP “in charge of ideology-related work, as well as its propaganda system”. The ex-Propaganda Department also enforces media censorship in China and gives instructions to the media on what can be said about tricky issues such as Taiwan or Tibet.
When it is deemed necessary to protect ‘State Security’, it can even modify news. To give an example of the monitoring of ‘national’ news, on May 15, Xia Lin, Chief Editor of Xinhua News Agency presented a report to some students of journalism at Tianjin Foreign Studies University. The topic of the report was Understanding Journalistic Protocols for Covering Breaking News.
According to the blog of one of the witnesses (his posting was later removed), Xia gave the example of the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft’s return to earth. After a successful landing, the astronaut Yang Liwei emerged from the cabin. The momentous event was broadcast ‘live’. Yang Liwei’s face was a bit pale, but his body looked in good condition. In front of the cameras, he was quickly taken out the cabin. Xia explained to the students that the images of Yang Liwei had actually been ‘cleaned up’. According to China Digital Times the mission landing was not so perfect. The excessive G-force pressure during re-entry split open Yang Liwei’s lips, drenching his face in blood: “The workers quickly mopped up the blood, strapped him back in his seat and shut the door. Then, with the cameras rolling, the cabin door swung open again, revealing an unblemished moment of triumph”.
A recent report in the Indian press shows that the Publicity Department is also able to use foreign media to propagate its version of history.
The report stated: “Twenty-year-old Panchen Lama, being projected by China as the Dalai Lama’s successor, has made his ‘political debut’ by making a maiden address at a prominent monastery in Tibet, the state media said on Tuesday”.
Only quoting Chinese media, the Indian report affirmed: “The 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, addressed for the first time a congregation at Tashilhunpo monastery in Tibet. Qoigyijabu was appointed by China as the 11th Panchen Lama.”
The fact that the name of the Panchen Lama (Bainqen) Gyaltsen Norbu (Qoigyijabu) was phonetically spelled à la Chinese showed the origin of the report.
Though it mentioned that “the designation of six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima for the same post by Dalai Lama in 1995 was repudiated”, nothing about the background was explained.
The Chinese propaganda has now openly decided to bet on Gyaltsen Norbu as the new spiritual leader of Tibet. The young Lama has been appointed a delegate to the top legislative advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Desperate to win over the Tibetans, the Chinese leadership does not realize that this tactical move can only create more resentment among the Tibetan masses.
Flashback: in December 1989, the Tenth Panchen Lama died in mysterious circumstances in Tashilhunpo monastery. A couple of days earlier, he had publicly declared that 40 years of Communist presence had brought more misery than good things for Tibet. One senior Chinese official witnessed the Panchen Lama’s speech. His name, Hu Jintao then CCP boss in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
The fate of the Panchen Lama came back in the news in May 1995 when, on the occasion of Buddha Poornima, the Dalai Lama formally announced that Gedhun Choeki Nyima, a six-year old boy from Lhari district in Tibet was the genuine Eleventh Panchen Lama. This marked the culmination of a long process started soon after the death of his predecessor.
For the proceeding four years, the Dalai Lama had performed different religious and spiritual practices in order to discover the correct reincarnation. He had also been in secret contact with the Chinese-appointed head of the Search Committee, Chatrel Rimpoche who had twice consulted the Lhamoi Lhatso, the Lake of Vision in which signs always indicate the path to follow to find a departed lama.
The Chinese reaction was not long in coming. Infuriated that they had been out played by the Dalai Lama (the worse affront for the Chinese psyche is to publicly lose face), they immediately arrested Chatrel Rimpoche as well as the newly recognized Panchen Lama.
Since then, nothing is known about the whereabouts of Gedhun Choeki Nyima, known as the Youngest Political Prisoner in the World.
In October 1995, the Dalai Lama appealed personally to Jiang Zemin: “I am deeply concerned that the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, whom I have recognised as the incarnation of the late Panchen Lama, are not known publicly since some time”. But no official answer came from Beijing, However, the matter was taken very seriously in Beijing and this at the highest level of the State. President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng personally took over into the issue. They decide that no time should be lost in announcing China’s own candidate.
On November 8, Jiang Zemin asks some hand-picked monks in Beijing to met and nominate three candidates other than Gedhun. Their names were put in the Golden Urn in the Cathedral in Lhasa and Gyaltsen’s name came out first.
On December 8, 1995, Gyaltsen was ‘officially’ enthroned by the Party in the Tashilhunpo monastery. The ceremony was kept secret by the Chinese authorities until the last moment as they feared the backlash of angry masses at this unilateral imposition of the Party’s candidate.
It is interesting to note that even though Chatrel Rimpoche had been specially chosen by Beijing for his pro-Chinese sentiments, at the end of the process, he chose to refer the matter to the Dalai Lama for the final choice.
Already a question is in the mind of all the Tibetans and their well-wishers: is the puppet Panchen Lama’s recognition and enthronement a rehearsal for a more important recognition: the Dalai Lama’s?
There are no more doubts about this.
Today the Central Publicity Department fully uses the Party’s Panchen Lama for propaganda purposes. During the Lamas’ recent visit to Tibet, he was received as a VVIP (with red carpet) by the bosses of the Party, lead by the infamous Zhang Qingli who once called the Dalai Lama a wolf in monk's robes.
The Lama also visited Yumbulhakang, the Palace of the First Kings of Tibet and the cradle of the Tibetan civilization. He also went to the Reting monastery founded by Atisha, the great Bengali Pandit. It is from Reting that the prevalent Kadampa lineage of Tibetan Buddhist originated and it has a deep meaning for the Tibetans. The Lama met the young Reting Rinpoche, a puppet Lama who in his previous life has been fiercely anti-Dalai Lama.
The only thing that the Chinese can't do is to buy the love of the Tibetan people for someone they consider as a stooge of the Party. Resentment is bound to grow.