The Panchen Lama, who vanished 20 years ago at the age of six after being chosen by the Dalai Lama as the next-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, is “growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed”, a Chinese government official who serves as a liaison to the Tibetans said yesterday.
Gendun Choekyi Nyima was taken into custody in 1995 by Chinese authorities after Tibetan religious leaders recognised him as the latest reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. He has not been seen in public since. Norbu Dunzhub, a member of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s United Front Work Department, told reporters he was “living a normal life” but did not specify where.
The Panchen and Dalai Lamas have historically vied with each other for religious and political power in Tibet. Control over the arcane procedure for choosing their reincarnations is a key to political legitimacy on the strategic and ethnically distinct Tibetan plateau, location of the headwaters of most of China’s largest rivers.
The struggle over the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation is viewed as a prelude to the much bigger battle over who will control that of the Dalai Lama’s, now 80, given the stature he has in Tibetan and international communities. He has said he might rule out reincarnation to prevent Beijing from usurping the process.
In 1995 Chinese-appointed authorities chose a different boy, Gyaincain Norbu, as the Panchen Lama, on the grounds that a ceremony dating from the Qing dynasty gives the officially atheist Chinese state the right to select reincarnations of Tibetan religious leaders. That young man, now 25, was raised in Beijing and has appeared occasionally in public, including delivering a speech in English in 2009 at a World Buddhist Conference organised in the eastern city of Wuxi.
When the Chinese Communist party took power in mainland China in 1949, both the Panchen and the Dalai Lamas were teenagers. The Dalai Lama fled over the Himalayas in 1959 after the People’s Liberation Army took control of Tibet following an uprising against forced collectivisation and land reform during the Great Leap Forward.
The previous Panchen Lama was imprisoned in 1962 for “organising a rebellion” after writing a report criticising the starvation of Tibetans due to collectivisation and disastrous crop policies during the Great Leap Forward. He was released in the 1980s and died in Tibet in 1989.
A rail connection to the Tibetan capital Lhasa completed in 2006 has accelerated Chinese state-backed investment in the region, particularly in mining and hydropower projects, bottled water and tourism. A white paper released yesterday said all officially recognised villages in the region gained access to electricity by the end of 2012.
1995年，更登确吉尼玛(Gendun Choekyi Nyima)被多名西藏宗教领袖认定为班禅喇嘛(Panchen Lama)转世后遭中国当局扣押。此后他从未在公开场合露面。西藏自治区党委统战部部务会成员罗布顿珠(Norbu Dunzhub)告诉记者，更登确吉尼玛过着“正常的生活”，但没有说明他的下落。
1995年，由中国中央政府任命的西藏当局依照一个源自清朝的仪式，选择了一位名为坚赞诺布(Gyaincain Norbu)的男孩为班禅喇嘛的转世。该仪式使号称无神论的中国政府获得了选择西藏宗教领导人转世的权力。这位现年25岁的男青年在北京抚养长大，偶尔在公共场合出现，2009年他曾在华东城市无锡举行的世界佛教大会(World Buddhist Conference)上用英语发表讲话。