Panchen Lama says Tibetans enjoy religious freedom

The Panchen Lama is the second-ranked religious leader to Tibetans, after the Dalai Lama.

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2011, 23:07 PM IST

Beijing: A Tibetan spiritual leader installed
by China`s communist government against the Dalai Lama`s
wishes has finished a trip to a major Buddhist monastery with
comments unlikely to endear him to an already sceptical
Tibetan public.

The Panchen Lama is the second-ranked religious leader to
Tibetans, after the Dalai Lama, but most Tibetans do not
accept him because he was appointed by Beijing. The original
boy selected by the Dalai Lama in 1995 has not been heard from
since, with suspicion falling on Beijing.

According to a report today by the official Xinhua News
Agency, the Panchen Lama said he was impressed by the amount
of religious freedom enjoyed by Buddhists near the remote
Labrang Monastery that has been the scene of numerous
anti-Beijing protests.

The comments are likely to reinforce the belief among
Tibetans that he is not the true Panchen Lama.

Beijing`s Panchen Lama, who was selected when he was 6
years old and is also known as Gyaltsen Norbu, has taken on an
increasingly political role in recent years.

The now 21-year-old has made appearances with Communist
Party leaders praising Chinese rule over Tibet and been
appointed to the main government advisory body.

The monastery is one of the most important outside of
Tibet and was the site of numerous protests by monks following
deadly ethnic riots in Tibet in 2008 that were the most
sustained Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.

During a 13-day trip that ended Sunday, the Panchen Lama
also gave cash to poor local families, toured government-built
houses for nomads and told locals to uphold national unity and
obey the law, Xinhua said.

The trip was the latest attempt by Beijing to burnish his
religious credentials. It also saw security stepped up in the
area prior to his arrival, with Chinese tourism officials
saying at the start of the trip that foreigners had been
barred from the county.