China shows off its Panchen Lama at Hong Kong Buddhist forum
A Tibetan youth named by Beijing as the 11th Panchen Lama but reviled by many Tibetans as a fake made his first trip outside mainland China on Thursday as he is groomed to become the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama dies.
Gyaltsen Norbu, 22, was selected as a boy by officially atheist Beijing in 1995 as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism in its drive to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans.
Tibet’s current spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had announced his own choice of a six-year-old boy, who was taken away by authorities and has since disappeared from public view, creating a crisis of legitimacy for devout Tibetans.
China reviles the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, as a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.
China has gradually exposed its Panchen Lama in public roles in the hope he will achieve the respect commanded by the 76-year-old Dalai Lama among Tibetans and globally.
He took no questions on Thursday at a Buddhist forum in the former British colony of Hong Kong. He stayed away from controversy, mostly using esoteric terms to talk about Buddhism and its emphasis on inner peace to achieve social harmony.
“Current society values external science and technology over the inner sciences,” he said in Mandarin.