Chinese-Backed Panchen Lama Concludes Disputed Gansu Visit

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 2:55 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media say the government-selected Panchen Lama has completed a 13-day visit to prominent Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China, which prompted protests from some of the monks.

The official Xinhua news agency said Tuesday the lama, also known as Gyaltsen Norbu, performed rituals and gave blessings to more than 50,000 Tibetan Buddhists during a two-week tour of China's Gansu province.

It said the 21-year-old lama also expressed satisfaction with the degree of religious freedom enjoyed by people in the region.

Among his stops was the highly respected Labrang monastery in Gannan prefecture, which was the scene of deadly protests against Chinese rule in 2008. Tibetan exile groups said monks at the monastery distributed flyers ahead of the visit saying the Panchen Lama was not welcome.

The Panchen Lama is the second ranking spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism. But many Tibetans reject the current lama because of the way he was chosen.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, selected another young man, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, to become the 11th Panchen Lama. But the youth was arrested by Chinese police in 1995 at the age of 6 and has not been heard from since.

In his place, Chinese authorities named Gyaltsen Norbu, who has backed Chinese rule in Tibet. He has been made a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, one of the country's highest political bodies.