3 JULY 2002
The high-profile meeting of the Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji on 31 July with the 13-year-old boy, foisted on the Tibetan people as the 11th Panchen Lama, was yet another exercise in the Chinese attempt at seeking international legitimacy for the boy they have imposed as the Panchen Lama.
Beijing believes that their control over Tibet’s spiritual figures would ensure their control of the minds and loyalty of the Tibetan people. What the authorities choose not to see is that a spiritual person derives his authority only if he has been recognized as such by another spiritual figure that the people already revere. A reincarnation, who does not command the respect of people, is a useless tool in the hands of the authorities.
Beijing hopes to imprint the image of this boy in the memory of the world by constantly parading him as the Panchen Lama of Tibet. They seem to believe that a lie, if repeated frequently enough, becomes a truth.
To the Tibetan people, this sort of exercise only serves to refresh their national anguish over the fate of another 13-year-old, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has languished in limbo for seven years now. The Chinese authorities spirited him away soon after His Holiness declared him as the 11th Panchen Lama in May 1995. A few months later, in December 1995, the authorities marshaled a group of Tibetan lamas into the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, and forced them to undergo the farcical ceremony of drawing lots from the Golden Urn to endorse Beijing’s choice of the reincarnation.
The Chinese government’s rejection and removal of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima prompted angry response from the Tibetan populace. They put up anonymous wall posters, expressing faith only in the Panchen Lama recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The public mood in Tibet at that time was so tense that the authorities deployed a massive number of security personnel and unleashed a new wave of "political re-education" campaigns. Even at Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama, hundreds of monks disrupted the "re-education" meeting and demanded the installation of the "real Panchen Lama" and "our Chatrel Rinpoche" at the monastery. This was a significant event insofar as the Chinese authorities till then had extolled Tashilhunpo as an exemplary monastery, whose loyalty to China had been taken for granted.
By September of that year, Tibet Information Network, a London-based news monitoring agency, released the list of 48 Tibetans who had been jailed for expressing their faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s choice. Needless to say that many more remained unaccounted for.
That the Tibetan people deeply resent this interference in their age-old spiritual tradition is not lost on the Chinese authorities. This explains Beijing’s decision to break the protocol of bringing its appointee to Tashilhunpo Monastery for spiritual training. They know that if they brought him to Tashilhunpo, the Tibetan people’s disdain for him would become all too clear. And, this would spiritually neutralize what they had achieved through sheer force.
Department of Information & International Relations
Central Tibetan Adminstration