“Lamas at loggerheads”

I’ve been curious about how things were going at Labrang, which is being forced to host the fake Panchen Lama. Last we heard he was supposed to be settling in for a long stay; via the Economist we hear that it didn’t work out:

The monastery they chose was Labrang in southern Gansu province, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. It is not clear why. Historically, the Panchen Lama’s seat was Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse in central Tibet. Robert Barnett of Columbia University in New York says it is possible that even at Tashilhunpo some lamas do not accept China’s choice. In 1997, Tashilhunpo’s then abbot, Chadrel Rinpoche, was sentenced to six years in prison (he has not resurfaced since) for helping the Dalai Lama make his choice of Panchen Lama. In 1998, Chinese officials tried to give their Panchen Lama a monastic start at Kumbum in Qinghai Province, a monastery that has usually acquiesced to Chinese rule. Its abbot, Arjia Rinpoche, fled to America to avoid the duty.

Labrang has no reputation for tameness. Its monks joined a wave of protests that swept Tibet and neighbouring Tibetan regions in 2008 after an outbreak of rioting in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. In recent days, Labrang has again proved stubborn. Locals gave China’s Panchen Lama, who arrived on August 11th, nothing like the rapturous reception his predecessor, the tenth Panchen Lama, received during visits to Tibetan areas. Large numbers of police prevented any protests, and foreigners were ushered out of town. Tibetan exile groups quoted sources at Labrang saying that Gyaltsen Norbu was expected to stay for weeks or months. A local official, however, says he left on August 16th. His cool welcome, it seems, hastened him on his way.

Good on the authorities for realizing that this stupid stunt was… well, a stupid stunt. As for the Panchen Zuma himself, if he personally wants to connect with the Tibetan people then he should follow the example of the 10th Panchen, who also indulged the Chinese government early in his life but later became a fierce advocate for Tibetan rights. That’s the way to win over a cold public, not empty words about how thankful Tibetans are for the guidance of the Communist Party.

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Filed under Communist Party, Dalai Lama, enforced disappearance, ethnic conflict, religion, Tibet

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