Tibet, a "stain" on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

A French parliamentary delegation yesterday returned from a visit to the region. A senator warned Beijing about the importance of resolving the Tibetan question before the Games. In the meantime, the Panchen Lama chosen by Communist leaders has returned home.

Lhasa (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A French parliamentary delegation yesterday warned that the time had come to reach agreement on the future of Tibet; if not, "the question could become a stain on the 2008 Olympics". Meanwhile, Beijing dispatched the Panchen Lama chosen by Communist leaders to the region. This Panchen Lama was picked to replace the one indicated by the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism in exile since the region was invaded.

Senator Louis de Broissia, president of the French Senate's Information Commission on Tibet, visited the region together with some colleagues. On his return, he said: "There is one chance for Tibet and that's before the Olympics. With so much international attention, the Tibet question could become a stain on the Olympics. After the Games, it's all over."

The politician said the opportunity was there for both sides: "Tibetan youth in exile are very impatient. They could espouse more violent forms of protest once the Dalai Lama dies. It's in the interests of China to work fast and concretely."

The delegation experienced the censorship that Communist cadres in the region usually reserve for foreigners: they were not allowed to speak to the people and their guided trips were strictly planned. "When they asked about the Dalai Lama, officials responded with questions about unrest among young Muslims in France," the senator said.

Nonetheless, Beijing clearly knows how things stand and dreads any protest by the French delegation. Yesterday, for the first time, the Panchen Lama chosen by Beijing to replace the one indicated by the Dalai Lama returned to his village of origin in Tibet.

In May 1995, the Dalai Lama in exile in India – with the help of Chatrel Rimpoche, the abbot of Tashilhumpo monastery (Xigaze, Tibet) – named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, aged six, as the new Panchen Lama. In November of the same year, the Religious Affairs Office, in a bid to weaken the authority of the Dalai Lama, chose another six-year-old boy, Gyaincain Norbu, citing special ritual reasons. After this recognition, the little Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was kidnapped by police and disappeared: the Chinese authorities said "he is well, living with his family and does not want to be disturbed."

The return home of the Communist Panchen Lama has been interpreted as a political decision: analysts say the regime trying to make Gyaincain Norbu more visible to make sure Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is forgotten.