Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – The Chinese government "has decided to deprive the Panchen Lama of the education and training necessary to enable him to carry out his duties,” said Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile.
China’s action are deliberate. The government wants to keep the Panchen Lama from learning the Tibetan language, religion and culture, “so that he would not be in a position to communicate directly with the Tibetan people in the future,” he told AsiaNews on the 20th anniversary of the boy’s abduction.
The Panchen Lama is tasked with recognising the new rebirth after the death of the Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, recognised Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the new Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995. A few days later, on 17 May, police abducted the 6-year-old boy and his family. Since then, nothing has been known of their whereabouts.
To mark the event, and demand Nyima’s release, demonstrations were held yesterday in several cities of the world on behalf of "the youngest political prisoner in history".
Beijing did not merely seize the legitimate number two of Tibetan Buddhism. In November 1995, it “selected” Gyaltsen Norbu as the "true" Panchen Lama, claiming that it used "more authentic" religious rituals than the Dalai Lama. Beijing’s goal is to establish tight control over Tibet’s religious life.
In 2004, China went one step further and issued a regulation whereby all the "living Buddhas” must be approved by the government. This way, Beijing hopes to control the next Dalai Lama. Such religious leaders play an important role in Tibetan Buddhism.
After a period of "study" and isolation, China’s hand-picked Panchen Lama entered national political life in 2010, at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body the National People's Congress. Since then he has not been seen a lot.
Aware that Tibetan Buddhists have little respect for him, he lives in a closed monastery in Beijing. In the Grand Lama Temple in the Chinese capital – where the thrones of the Dalai and Panchen are kept – his picture is smaller than that of its predecessor.
“I believe that the efforts of the Chinese government in keeping the Panchen Lama in a secret location is to deprive him of all the religious [training] that he [needs] to undertake so that he can teach to the future generations of Tibetans,” Penpa Tsering said.
Although based on a system of rebirths, Tibetan Buddhism’s main religious figures also have a very high level of education. Historically, the Panchen Lama is the Dalai Lama’s religious and cultural master.
Penpa said that he believed China hopes to keep the Panchen Lama from learning the Tibetan language “so that he would not be in a position to communicate directly with the Tibetan people in the future.”