Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Buddhism with Chinese political characteristics

Gyaltsen Norbu arrives at Zongfo Hinayanist Temple
As mentioned in an earlier post, China is preparing the 6th Tibet Work Forum by sending ‘high’ officials to Tibet as well as in ‘Tibetan-inhabited areas’.
Xinhua reported that ‘the 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu’, in other words Beijing’s Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu “has concluded a seven-day tour (from May 26 to June 1) in southwest China's Yunnan Province, where he visited Buddhist sites and conducted rituals.”
He is said to have given blessings to more than 40,000 monks, followers and public visitors.
As usual we are told about the official visit when the ‘dignitary’ has returned to Beijing. It is safer for the person and the Party, I presume.
Xinhua reported that Gyaltsen Norbu visited “two local temples, a Buddhist college, the provincial capital of Kunming and the Xishuangbanna Prefecture.”
Two places are particularly interesting.
Zongfo Hinayanist Temple
The Zongfo Temple in Jinghong (Xishuangbanna Prefecture) is a Theravada monastery, located close to the Thailand border. The Zongfo Temple, which covers an area of more than 3,000 square meters, has a history of over 1,000 years, said a Chinese travel website. The restoration has recently been completed and is open ‘free’ to the public.
The visit was clearly a political one as Beijing is keen to show that it can take the world lead not only of the Mahayana, but of the Hinayana too.
Though images show Gyaltsen Norbu being received at the temple, it was not mentioned if he participated in Theravada rituals or debates.
In the months and years to come, Beijing will use more and more the services of Gyaltsen Norbu to show that China does look after all schools and sects of Buddhism.

Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery
The second ‘political’ important stop was at the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery in Gyalthang (Zhongdian/Shangrila). It is the largest Tibetan-Buddhist temple in Yunnan. It has been linked to the Shugden practice denounced by the Dalai Lama. Last year in May, Yu Zhengsheng, the CPPCC Chairman also paid a surprise meeting to the monastery.
Yu Zhengsheng in Sumtsenling in May 2014
Xinhua said that Gyaltsen Norbu “worshiped a Buddha statute, chanted sutras and prayed for all living beings. …At a local Buddhist college, he sat in on classes where teachers and students debated Buddhist doctrine and called on the students to study hard.”
Apart from the fact that he went to the main Shugden center in Eastern Tibet, Gyaltsen Norbu is said (by Xinhua) to have “pledged to uphold patriotism and make contributions to national unity, ethnic solidarity, religious harmony and social stability.”
He also called on all Chinese Tibetan-Buddhist followers “to love the country, make efforts to benefit the people and practice benevolence to promote social development and protect national interests.”
This is routine stuff.

Another Hint about the Tibet Work Forum
China Tibet Online gives another hint about what is going to be decided during the 6th Tibet Work Meeting.
Remember that a Central United Front Work Conference was convened in Beijing from May 18 through May 20; I mentioned on this blog.
During the meet, Xi Jinping emphasized the need to unite the ‘three types of people’, including people in the non-public economic sector.
Now Apei Jinyuan, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Association of Industry and Commerce, affirmed in Lhasa that the conference has “raised a high demand for promoting the sound development of the non-public economy”.
By the way, Apei Jinyuan is Ngapo Ngawang Jigme’s younger brother.
The Tibet Daily affirmed at the end of June 2014 that “the number of main market players of various types in the TAR reached 140,000, increased by 19 percent. The non-public economy (including individual businesses, privately-owned and foreign-invested enterprises) already accounts for 95.64 percent of the main market players in the TAR, and its tax revenue has achieved 7.405 billion yuan, accounting for 93.3 percent of the total tax revenue.”
‘Market players’ probably refers to companies listed in the stock exchange.
According to China Economic Net, during the (infamous) ‘China Tibet Development Forum’ held in 2014, Liao Yidong, the TAR vice chairman of the Association of Industry and Commerce stated that “Tibet’s non-public economy enjoys unprecedented development opportunities with the improved basic conditions, industrial environment, and system in Tibet. Yet at the same time, it is still faced with several challenges. It is still relatively small in scale and unevenly distributed. The quality and rate of contribution of technology to the non-public economy remain low, and the financing capacity is still limited.”
There is no doubt that the forthcoming Tibet Work Forum will go into this direction and support the development of the private sector on the Tibetan plateau.
Will the Tibetans benefit the move? This is another story!
According to The Tibet Daily, Wu Yingjie, the TAR deputy secretary said that 2015 is “a crucial year for comprehensively deepening reforms, [it is] the first Year in promoting law-based governance, and the last for completing the work in the “Twelfth Five-year Plan”.
It is also probably the Year to give a new direction to the mountainous region and assimilate it further to the Mainland …and the New Silk Road.

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