China's Panchen Lama increases his presence in Tibet

Gyaltsen Norbu, China's Panchen Lama
Gyaltsen Norbu, China's Panchen Lama

19th September 2016

Beijing’s handpicked Panchen Lama continues to make public appearances, instructs monks to maintain “social harmony”

The Chinese Panchen Lama has continued to make high-profile appearances in Tibet, with a flurry of activity over the past two months. The increased presence of Gyaltsen Norbu in Tibet in recent months follows his high-profile and controversial appearance at the prestigious Kalachakra ceremony in July.

According to reports from the state news agency Xinhua, last Thursday Gyaltsen Norbu visited Shigatse, the historic home of the Panchen Lama, the second highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. While there, he carried out blessings at Ngor Monastery. Last month Gyaltsen Norbu, who also serves as vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, travelled to Lhasa and Nyingchi City, where he met with Tibetan Buddhist scholars.

At the meeting in Nyingchi, Gyaltsen Norbu claimed that freedom of religion was fully protected in Tibet and praised the improvement in living conditions of monks and nuns. In the past year there have been extensive demolitions and removals of residents at Larung Gar Buddhist Academy and Jhada Gon Palden Khachoe Nunnery.

Echoing the party leadership

Gyaltsen Norbu’s claims closely echo statements made by members of the Communist Party leadership in Tibet, who have repeatedly urged monks and nuns to demonstrate the virtues of unity, harmony and loyalty to China in their activities. Gyaltsen Norbu's increased presence in Tibet through high-profile, carefully-arranged appearances also indicates that Beijing is continuing to promote its Panchen Lama to Tibetans, with the aim of him taking on a greater role in Tibet’s religious affairs in the future.

As Free Tibet reported in July, China’s Panchen Lama was granted his most important stage so far this year when he travelled to Shigatse to carry out the Kalachakra ceremony. The move was roundly criticised in the Tibetan-in-exile community in Dharamsala, India.

Thousands of Buddhists travelled to the Kalachakra ceremony, which ran from 21 July to 24 July, although reports have claimed that Tibetans in Shigatse were coerced into attending, with at least two people from each household in the area instructed to attend.

Most Tibetans do not recognise Gyaltsen Norbu as the Panchen Lama, and instead continue to demand information about the location and condition of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama in 1995. He was abducted shortly after being confirmed by the Dalai Lama and has not been seen since.

Take action

Free Tibet’s ‘Beyond Belief’ campaign supports Tibetans in pushing back against China’s relentless interference in their religious affairs. Sign the petition to call on political and religious leaders to tell China that they will do the same and will never recognise any Dalai Lama it appoints.