Ranked second in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama has the task of recognising the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama after the latter’s death.
The current Dalai Lama acknowledged Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995, but a few days later the six-year-old boy disappeared. Despite repeated requests by the United Nations and international organisations to meet him, he has not been seen or heard ever since. Instead in November 1995 China “chose” Gyancain as the “true” Panchen Lama.
During a visit to a Beijing exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Democratic Reforms in Tibet” (pictured), 19-year-old Gyancain said that “People living in Tibet should cherish [their] prosperity and happy lives today,” adding that he would continue to guide Tibetan Buddhists to fit in the country's socialist society.
These words come a week after the exiled Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, said that 50 years of Chinese Communist rule have brought “indescribable suffering” to his country, and turned it into “hell on earth”.
Beijing claims that it brought stability to Tibet and invested billions of dollars for its development.
Tibetans counter saying that under China they are denied the right to celebrate their religious festivities in public and that any economic progress achieved so far has benefited Han and Hui settlers, who have flooded their homeland by the millions, turning them into a minority in their own land.
In the meantime, despite the massive presence of troops and the crack down on any public demonstration, small groups of Tibetans continue their protest against Chinese rule.
News about the ongoing repression continues to filter from local sources. However, no official confirmation has been possible because the area is under tight military control and reporters and foreigners are not allowed there.
Radio Free Asia reported that in the city of Kardze (Sichuan) three teenage girls threw leaflets and shouted slogans calling for Tibetan independence and the return of the Dalai Lama. They were quickly surrounded by 50 security personnel, put in a van and taken away.
Also in Kardze two young people, Sonam and Dawa Tsering, held similar protests last Thursday and Saturday.
In Myagrong County three people in their twenties, Sonam Gonpo, Thok Thok and Pema Yeshe, were arrested for burning official papers that belonged to local authorities.
In Lithang, also in Sichuan, monk Lobsang Wangchuk started handing out flyers on 10 March but was immediately taken away by security forces.