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Replacement Panchen visits Chamdo as China changes tact to pay rather than coerce Tibetans to seek his blessing

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun18’23) – Continuing his focus on the eastern and southeastern traditional Tibetan province of Kham, Gyaltsen Norbu, the replacement 11th Panchen Lama appointed by the Chinese government, has recently visited the territory’s historical provincial capital Chamdo.

Recently, Panchen Erdeni Chos-kyi rGyal-po visited Qambaling (Tibetan: Jampaling) Monastery in Chamdo City, Tibet to worship the Buddha and expound the Buddhist sutras, and blessed more than 36,000 Tibetan Buddhism followers by touching their foreheads, reported China’s official online Tibet news service eng.tibet.cn Jun 16.

Chamdo is currently part of what China has demarcated as Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or simply “Tibet”, although it is only roughly the western half of Tibet proper.

During his previous visits to TAR, which took place amid tight security, local Tibetans had been warned to show up to seek his blessings and attend his teachings or face punishment.

However, in a change of tact during his recent tour of Gyalthang (Shangri-La, Chinese: Xianggelila) County in Yunnan; Lithang (Litang), Bathang (Batang), and Dhapa (Daba) counties in Sichuan Province; and Markham (Mangkang) County in TAR, China was reported to have offered money to Tibetans to seek his blessing.

The Chinese government was paying 100 yuan (about US$14) to each Tibetan who visited and received blessings from Gyaltsen Norbu, who is not recognized by most Tibetans as the true reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, reported the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Jun 7.

The tour was stated to be Gyaltsen Norbu’s third in the area. He lives in Beijing, although the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, southern Tibet, is supposed to be his home, estate and centre of activities.

He is currently the youngest member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a Vice-Chairman of the Buddhist Association of China and the head of the latter’s Tibet branch.

Meanwhile, the whereabout or, indeed, the very fate of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized and proclaimed by the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, continues to remain unknown ever since the Chinese government kidnapped him, with his family, in 1995 at six years of age.

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