11/25/2011, 00.00
TIBET – CHINA
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Lama who recognised Panchen Lama feared dead from poisoning

Chadrel Jampa Trinley Rinpoche, the abbot who chaired the committee charged with recognising the 11th Panchen Lama, dies under house arrest after 11 years in detention. Sources tell AsiaNews that poison might be the cause. A year ago, the committee’s secretary also died.
Lhasa (AsiaNews) – Chadrel Jampa Trinley Rinpoche, the abbot that led the search for the 11th Panchen Lama, might be dead, poisoned by Chinese officials. Since 1995, he had been in Chinese custody. The religious had been sent to Tibet by the Dalai Lama and had recognised a boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the reincarnation of the Panchen, the second highest office in Tibetan Buddhism. After his arrest, he was sentenced to six years of forced labour and three years in prison. After completing his conviction, he was placed under de facto house arrest.

“We are afraid he might be dead,” sources told AsiaNews. “Some are saying that he was poisoned at home in Shigatse, where he was held for years.”

The Tibetan government-in-exile also reported his death. An audio message was sent to one of their sources in Lhasa, confirming the abbot’s death by poisoning.

On 17 May 1995, Chadrel Jampa Trinley Rinpoche and Jangpa Chung-la were arrested at Chengdu airport. The two were the president and secretary of the search committee for the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, second most important religious leader in Tibetan Buddhism.

They were accused of “endangering state security” and “leaking national secrets”. After two years of forced labour, they were sentenced to six and four years in prison respectively.

Chung-la died in November 2010. He had been ill for some time and had been denied much needed medical care whilst under house arrest.

When a Dalai Lama dies, the Panchen Lama is tasked with finding his reincarnation. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995 thanks to Chadrel Jampa Trinley Rinpoche and Jangpa Chung-la, whom he had sent. A few days later, Chinese police abducted the six-year-old boy and his family. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

In November 1995, China itself “picked” Gyaltsen Norbu as the true Panchen Lama, claiming it had applied more authentic religious rituals than those used by the Dalai Lama as part of its policy to exert tighter control over Tibet’s religious practices.

Last year, Norbu entered Chinese politics, by taking part in the activities of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which advises the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament.
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