Thursday, March 14, 2013

White Smokes, Spiritual Smokes

After 115 cardinals elected the new successor of St Peter in Rome, White Smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. 
The same morning, from the Tienanmen Square, nobody could see the White Smoke over the Great Hall of People . It is probably due to the heavy pollution in the Chinese capital, a new Emperor had however just been elected: Xi Jinping succeeded to Hu Jintao as the 'core' leader of the Middle Kingdom.
In the meantime, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Communist Party of China is becoming more and more interested in 'spirituality'. The CCP has started promoting  reincarnated Lamas, known in China as 'Living Buddha' in a big way.
China Tibet Online published a photo of the 'Chinese' Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu (Bainqen Qoigyijabu in pinyin); it shows the young Lama voting: 'The 11th Panchen Lama fulfills his role as a CPPCC member'.
It is clear that the Communist Government is now fully playing  the 'Panchen' card against the Dalai Lama. 
The caption of the photo says: "The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) casts the ballot at the fourth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th CPPCC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 11, 2013."
CPPCC's members were supposed to 'elect' their chairman, vice-chairpersons, secretary-general (Zhang Qingli, former Party boss in Tibet got the job) and the Standing Committee members of the 12th CPPCC National Committee.
Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo was eventually unanimously 'elected' chairman.
During the same meeting, twenty three vice-chairpersons were also nominated , amongst them Du Qinglin (former United Front Minister), Ling Jihua (present United Front Director) and Pagbalha [or Pagpala] Geleg Namgyai, another Tibetan 'Lama'.
Born in 1942 in Litang in Kham Province, Pagbala was early recognized as 11th Pagbalha Hutugtu (a Mongol title for a high incarnation). Phagpala collaborated with the Chinese from the start. In 1950-1952, he was a member of Chamdo People's Liberation Committee; in 1956-1959, he became a member of Standing Committee of Preparatory Committee of Tibet During the following years, he occupied many honorific posts in Beijing as well as in Lhasa. 
He was a deputy to 2nd to 5th National People's Congress (NPC); vice chairman of Standing Committee of 8th and 9th NPC and vice chairman of 3rd to 7th CPPCC National Committee. 
Coming back to the Chinese Panchen Lama, the Chinese press mentioned that "Panchen Lama takes higher advisory post"; it stated: "Three years after making his political debut, the 11th Panchen Lama, a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has been entrusted with a more important role of advising China on state affairs. He was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, China's top political advisory body."
Xinhua added: "The elevation comes amid anticipation that the Panchen Lama, who turned 23 in February, will make greater political contributions through his religious influence."
It quoted  Rinchen Gya, the chairman of the Qinghai Province's CPPCC: "The 11th Panchen Lama's participation in politics will help build up reverence among Tibetan people."
It is doubtful, though Xinhua commented: "The new post will increase the Panchen Lama's involvement in social and economic issues, as he will attend bimonthly meetings to discuss state affairs in the coming five years."
Though the Panchen Lama was not elected as vice-chairman, he made it in the Standing Committee, leaving Pagpala as the lone Tibetan as CPPCC's vice-chairman.
A Chinese website explained: "the CPPCC is a patriotic united front organization of the Chinese people, serving as a key mechanism for multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and a major symbol of socialist democracy."
It is not clear what this 'socialist democracy' is.
Yu Zhengsheng in his inaugural address told the delegates that China will follow its own path and shun 'extremist' ideas of change based on foreign models (i.e democracy).
Yu Zhengsheng advised to reject "impetuousness and extremist attitudes that lose contact with national conditions, we need to more strictly follow the socialist path of political development with Chinese characteristics. We will not copy models in Western political systems under any circumstances, always adhere to the correct political orientation, and strengthen the CPPCC's ideological and political foundations of collective struggle."
Apart from Phagpala and the Panchen Lama, Dupkang Tupden Kedup, another 'Living Buddha' has also been elected in the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee. He is presently vice president of the Tibet Branch of the Buddhist Association of China.
Soon after the election, Kedup declared: "Earth-shaking changes have taken place in Tibet with the supports from central government in recent years,"
Kedup is considered by Beijing the 7th Dupkang Rinpoche from Nagchuka, north of Lhasa.
Let us not forget that there were several thousands of 'rinpoches'  in pre-1950 Tibet, it is not difficult for Beijing to find a few spokespersons.
Kedup, like his CPPCC colleagues praised Beijing policy: "Since the Democratic Reform in Tibet in 1959, great changes occurred in Nagqu. In the past, there were no electricity and hospitals, except several tents. However, nowadays tall buildings, schools, hospitals, mobile phones and cars can be seen everywhere in Nagqu. I appreciate the CPPCC system for the advice from the CPPCC members are valuable and always had been attached great importance to by central government."
Beijing seems to rely more and more on its 'Living Budddhas'.
Dorje Phagmo, the only female reincarnation in Tibet is like the Panchen Lama a member of the CPPCC's Standing Committee. In 2008, she had declared that she was upset and angered by riots in Lhasa and accused the Dalai Lama of violating Buddhist teachings.
She publicly stated that "since Tibet's incorporation into Communist China it had been transformed from the backwards feudal society of largely illiterate serfs with little medical care that she knew as a child. Old Tibet was dark and cruel, the serfs lived worse than horses and cattle."
Born in 1942, at the age of five, she was chosen as the incarnation of the deity Vajravarahi and the abbess of Samling monastery .
After the incidents of 2008, Dorje Phagmo told the Chinese press: "Watching on television a tiny number of unscrupulous people burning and smashing shops, schools and public property, brandishing knives and sticks to attack unfortunate passers-by I felt boundless surprise, deep heartache and indignant resentment... The sins of the Dalai Lama and his followers seriously violate the basic teachings and precepts of Buddhism and seriously damage traditional Tibetan Buddhism's normal order and good reputation."
This was a few months before the Olympic Games.
It seems that Beijing has decided to bring out its entire battery of 'Living Buddhas' to explain the tense situation on the Roof of the World; this, at the time the Dalai Lama is 'secularizing' the Tibetan society.
Is it by bashing the Dalai Lama that the Tibetan issue will be resolved?
Certainly not.
Let us hope that President Xi Jinping  will soon realize that China is on the wrong track.

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