No political role yet for Chinese Panchen

10, Mar 31’08 (webbed, Mar 7)

China set at rest speculations that the 18-year-old Gyaltsen Norbu chosen by it as the 11th Panchen Lama would soon become the country’s youngest cabinet minister-level official as a Standing Committee member of the NPC, the Chinese parliament. “As far as I know, the Panchen Lama was not yet 18 when elections … were held. So he is not on the list of deputies this time,” Reuters Mar 4 quoted Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the First Session of the National People’s Congress, as saying while answering questions from reporters. Gyaltsen Norbu turned 18 on Feb 13, 2008, but apparently only after the NPC deputies had been chosen.

But there are speculations that Gyaltsen Norbu’s touted elevation may have been held up due to his perceived lack of aggressiveness in attacking the Dalai Lama. An report Mar 5 cited analysts as saying his failure to make it to the political arena reflected the Chinese government’s unhappiness with the attitude of the young man, who is thought to be insufficiently aggressive toward the Dalai Lama.

Nevertheless, Gyaltsen Norbu still appears to be set to assume a greater religious role. “We can see…that (the Panchen Lama) is learning and making progress and has established a high reputation among most of the Tibetan people,” the Independent Online (South Africa) Feb 28 quoted China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao as telling journalists. “I believe that he could play a bigger role and make greater contributions to the religious undertakings of Tibet, but as to whether he will be chosen for some political position, I have no information.”

In Jan 2008, ahead of his 18th birthday, Gyaltsen Norbu met with China’s parliamentary Chairman, Wu Bangguo, and was told to take up the task of melding Tibetan Buddhism with Chinese-style socialism, it cited Chinese press reports as saying.

“I hope you deeply study the spirit of the 17th Communist Party Congress, respect the party’s policy on religious work and explore a road suitable for both Tibetan Buddhism and socialism,” Wu was quoted as having told Gyaltsen Norbu.


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