Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Where were the Panchen Lamas?

Yu received by Dupkang Tupden Kedup at Jokhang
Lately, China’s leadership has been extremely busy.
Soon after the mega parade for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II was over, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and member of the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Politburo left for Lhasa.
Here too the sky was blue, though it was more natural, the authorities did not need to close 10,000 factories like in the Chinese capital.
However, President Xi Jinping did not turn up.
He was probably too preoccupied with the fluctuating stock exchanges, the poor figures of the Chinese economy and the ‘reforms’ of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and perhaps, more importantly, with his forthcoming visit to the United States, which according to ‘China watchers’ may not be that smooth.
The Grand Show, in front of the Potala Palace, was addressed by Yu, with his lady colleagues of the Politburo on his side: Sun Chunlan (responsible of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), looking after Tibet affairs) and Liu Yandong (a state councilor and a former head of the UFWD).
In attendance too, Du Qinglin, also a former UFWD boss and now vice- chairman of the CPPCC National Committee and a full-general (probably Li Zuocheng, Commander of the Chengdu Military Region).
Old Tibet hands, Jampa Phunsok, Phagphala Rinpoche and Raidi were also on the dais.
Jampa Phunsok, Phagphala and Raidi with Yu
Few commentators remarked the absence of the two Panchen Lamas, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the one chosen by the Dalai Lama who has been under house arrest for the past 20 years (though he is 26 only) and Gyaltsen Norbu, the candidate ‘selected’ by the Party, often mentioned on this blog.
Norbu Thondup, a Tibetan official, member of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Standing Committee (and the UFWD) told Reuters during a press conference before the ‘celebrations that Gendun was ‘living a normal life’ and did not want to be disturbed. It is a rare official admission, though foreign diplomats were often given the same answer.
"The reincarnated child Panchen Lama you mentioned is being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed," said Norbu Thondup.
He took the opportunity to denounce the Dalai Lama for ‘choosing’ Gendun as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, “he [the Dalai Lama] ignored historical customs and destroyed religious rituals”, said Thondup. “His identification was done without authorisation. It was illegal and invalid," added the official.
More surprising was the absence of Gyaltsen Norbu, who time and again, has been praised by the leadership (see my piece Hot Summer on the Tibetan Plateau).
Why was he absent from the Lhasa ‘celebrations’?
It is not that the leadership is not interested in religion.
Xinhua highlighted that Yu Zhengsheng’s went to the Jokhang Temple, the Central Cathedral in Lhasa and met 'religious' leaders.
Yu asserted: “The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government will adhere to policies that ensure the freedom of religious belief.”
He also said: “In the past half-century, people from the religious circle of Tibet, taking eminent monks of all generations as examples, have upheld CPC leadership and the socialist system and made significant contributions to national and ethnic unity, religious and social harmony."
It is said that some 100 odd monks lined up to receive Yu at Jokhang Temple, “blaring horns and burning incense.”
Yu affirmed that President Xi and the central authorities have been caring for Tibetan Buddhism. He cited the meeting between Xi and Gyalsten Norbu, during which “central authorities convened a key meeting on Tibet, outlining plans for the region's sustainable development and long-term stability.”
“Religious personnel bear great responsibilities,” added the Party No 4 and of course, the monasteries’ and temples’ management should “implement religious policies to achieve stability and harmony.”
Xinhua even admitted that “Tibetan Buddhism is the dominant religion in the plateau region, where 92 percent of about 3.2 million inhabitants are Tibetans.”
This does not answer the question: where was Gyalsten Norbu?
One answer could be that China ‘selected’ Panchen Lama may not be ready to 'implement' religious policies to achieve stability and harmony without being consulted.
A frightful thought for Beijing.
"Enhance the Unity, build beautiful Tibet"
First row: one monk from Jokhang, Dupkang Rinpoche
Second row: Raidi, Jampa Phuntsok, Sun Chunlan, Sithar, Yu, Liu Yandong, Du Qinglin,Zhang Yijong, Phagphala

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