Twenty Years On, China Says Panchen Lama “Living a Normal Life”

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2015-09-07 |

A senior Chinese official said at a press conference on Sunday that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the now-26-year-old man who vanished 20 years ago after being recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, is well and living a normal life. The official did not say where the man was living.

“The reincarnated child Panchen Lama . . . is being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed,” said Norbu Dunzhub, a member of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s United Front Work Department. (Reuters)

 photo A Tibetan carries a portrait of the Panchen Lama who has not been seen in public since his detention aged six in 1995. From _zps15jsbkwf.jpg

A Tibetan carries a portrait in memory of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who
disappeared from public view 20 years ago. From

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama recognized six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was born on 25 April 1989, as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995. On 17 May 1995, Nyima was taken into custody by the Chinese authorities, along with members of his family. He has not been seen in public since and there has been no news of his whereabouts.

Dunzhub denounced the Dalai Lama’s declaration recognizing Nyima as the current incarnation of the Panchen Lama, saying the selection “ignored historical customs and destroyed religious
rituals. . . . The identification was done without authorization. It was illegal and invalid.” (Reuters)

Both the Dalai Lama and officials in Beijing have made pointed public statements on the divisive matter of reincarnation, which carries significant political implications for Beijing and the stability of its control of ethnically Tibetan areas of China. Although China’s government is officially atheist, Beijing has repeatedly claimed the right and the final authority to recognize reincarnations of senior Tibetan lamas, including the Dalai Lama himself.

“No matter what the Dalai Lama says or does, the central government’s recognized rights toward reincarnation cannot be denied,” Norbu Dunzhub asserted, repeating Beijing’s long-held stance. (Reuters)

 photo The Chinese-government-appointed Panchen Lama speaks at the World Buddhist Forum in Hong Kong. From theguardian.com_zpsmbiljgbs.jpg

The Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama speaks at the World Buddhist Forum in Hong Kong. From

Having dismissed the Dalai Lama’s recognition of Nyima as the Panchen Lama, Beijing instead selected six-year-old Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama in November 1995. However, many Tibetans do not recognize Norbu as the true incarnation and believe the abduction was part of a plan by Beijing to dictate the choice of the next Dalai Lama, as the Panchen Lama traditionally plays a key role in recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

Norbu, now 25, was raised in Beijing and has only occasionally appeared in public. In 2009, he delivered a speech in English at a World Buddhist Conference in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi. In 2012, in his first appearance outside of mainland China, Norbu read a prepared speech at a Buddhist conference in Hong Kong backed by the state-sanctioned Buddhist Association of China.

The Panchen Lama (a title meaning “great scholar”) is the second-most-senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. The successive incarnations of the Panchen Lama form a tulku lineage believed to be incarnations of Amitabha Buddha. The 10th Panchen Lama was imprisoned in 1962 after writing a report criticizing the starvation of Tibetans due to collectivization and disastrous crop policies during China’s “Great Leap Forward.” He was released in the 1980s and died in Tibet on 28 January 1989.

See more

China says missing Panchen Lama is ‘living a normal life’ (Reuters)
Tibet’s Panchen Lama ‘living normal life’, says China (Financial Times)
Exiled Tibetan government calls for pressure on China over missing Panchen Lama (Shanghaiist)
Beijing’s Panchen Lama Holds Court in Hong Kong (Wall Street Journal)
Tibetan Government-in-exile Cautions China Against Plan to Pick Dalai Lama’s Successor (Buddhistdoor Global)
Panchen Lama addresses Buddhist forum in Hong Kong (Buddhistdoor Global)

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