(TibetanReview.net, Jun25’19) – China has decorated the replacement 11th Panchen Lama it appointed back in 1995 in place of the one recognized by the Dalai Lama with a third title: the president of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Branch of the Buddhist Association of China.
Gyaltsen Norbu, 29, is already a vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The Panchen Lama is the second most prominent religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism, although Gyaltsen Norbu’s status remains questionable given the fact that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s top religious leader living in exile, had already recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama before him. China simply disappeared him within days and then declared Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995.
On the Tibet Autonomous Regional Branch of the Buddhist Association of China position, Gyaltsen Norbu replaces Zhukang Tubdankezhub, who turns 64 this year and has led the regional branch of the Buddhist Association of China from 2003. He was “elected”, along with Sonam Rinzin, as an executive vice president of the regional branch at a plenary session held on Jun 22 in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency Jun 24.
The report added that 18 others were elected as vice presidents of the regional branch of the Buddhist Association of China.
The report said the leadership “represents Buddhism sects of Gelug, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Bon”.
Phagpalha Geleg Namgyal was stated to have been again invited to be the honorary president of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Branch of the Buddhist Association of China.
A Xinhua report Jun 23 said Gyaltsen Norbu was visiting Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Xigaze City that day. Tashi Lhunpo is the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, although Gyaltsen Norbu lives, and is groomed, in Beijing and is brought over to visit it only occasionally. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima continues to remain unknown since his disappearance in 1995.