China-Tibet Religious Dispute Intensifies
In a step that sets up one of the most serious religious confrontations in Tibet in recent times, China’s Communist Party leadership said today it would not recognize the 6-year-old son of a herder as the reincarnation of Tibet’s second-most-holy religious figure, the Panchen Lama. The boy was selected by Tibet’s exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.
The decision by the communist leadership to exclude the boy, Gedhum Choekyi Nyima, who had been proclaimed a living Buddha in May in an announcement from the Dalai Lama’s headquarters in India, was announced by the official New China News Agency, which also carried statements by President Jiang Zemin and other senior Chinese leaders.
The exclusion of the boy is certain to draw international criticism over China’s deepening intervention in Tibetan religious affairs. The Dalai Lama’s right to confirm the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation is centuries old.
Beijing’s announcement Sunday followed a six-month standoff. On Wednesday, Communist Party officials in charge of religious affairs convened a secret meeting in Beijing of 75 Tibetan leaders and told them to prepare to select a new Panchen Lama from a list of three boys who had been among 28 finalists.
The Dalai Lama’s choice was not among them.