To “make greater political contributions”: state media

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has elevated the role of the 11th Panchen Lama on a top political advisory body, a move State media said would pave the way for the Chinese-appointed religious leader to “make greater political contributions”.

The Panchen Lama was chosen as member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a top political advisory body that is in charge of minority issues, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

His appointment, Xinhua said, showed that he “has been entrusted with a more important role of advising China on state affairs”.

The 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, was chosen as a member of the CPPCC in 2010, and has been seen by many Tibetans as a controversial figure.

The 23-year-old was chosen as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama — the second most important figure for the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism after the Dalai Lama — in place of Gendun Choekyi Nyima. Nyima was first chosen as the reincarnation with the Dalai Lama’s backing, but subsequently disappeared.

The 11th Panchen Lama has faced a tough balancing act, trying to win the support of monks in China while at the same time conveying the government’s position in public appearances.

He remained largely silent in 2011 and early 2012 amid the series of self-immolations in Tibetan areas, where more than 100 people have set themselves on fire to protest policies.

‘Safeguard stability’

During a visit to Lhasa’s famous Jokhang temple in July last year, he broke his silence, saying “if a person does not protect social stability, he is not fit to be called a man of religion”.

He also “urged monks to appreciate what they have now and do more to safeguard social stability” and said “Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism are in their prime time of development”, according to State media reports.

The exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said last year the Panchen Lama’s silence reflected the difficulty he had faced in seeking the legitimacy of many Tibetans.

“If the Dalai Lama becomes 100 per cent pro-Chinese, then Tibetans will not respect the Dalai Lama. Like what happened with the Panchen Lama [Gendun Choekyi Nyima],” the Dalai Lama said in an interview with The Hindu last year. “I think the Panchen Lama himself now knows that. Recently during these crises, he has remained very silent. He is quite wise. It looks like the Chinese Panchen Lama is more wise than the Chinese leaders”.

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