Beijing (AsiaNews) – Sources in China’s Communist Party said that the Communist-picked Panchen Lama is likely to become a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress as early as next month, a rank equivalent to that of cabinet minister. Unrecognised by the mainstream Tibetan Buddhism he is slated to become the youngest Chinese leader ever appointed.
In May 1995 the Dalai Lama in exile in India named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, then aged 6, as the true reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.
China’s Religious Affair Bureau chose in November of the same year another 6- year-old boy, Gyaincain Norbu, choosing a rival incarnation. Gedhun's whereabouts remained secret and the boy was under house arrest.
For some analysts the appointment is some kind of prize for Norbu’s loyalty to the party. It is also a way to more closely tie the fate of Tibetan Buddhism to the government which is still hoping to undermine the Dalai Lama’s international influence.
According to the Free Tibet Campaign, an organisation fighting for Tibet’s freedom, “China's 13 year imprisonment of the boy recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama [. . .] represents a crime not only against a boy but also against the Tibetan people. For them the continuing imprisonment of the Panchen Lama is a source of great distress and an obvious example of China's ongoing and escalating repression of Buddhism in Tibet.”