China’s controversial choice as the second highest Tibetan spiritual figure said yesterday that Tibetans would never enjoy human dignity and freedom without the Chinese Communist Party.
The Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, yesterday visited an exhibition trumpeting the economic and democratic progress brought by communist rule in the 50 years since the end of feudalism in Tibet, state television reported.
The exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that led to the exile of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s most revered spiritual figure.
Chinese authorities say the beginning of his exile marked the end of serfdom in the mountainous region. “Facts prove that without the Communist Party of China, over a million serfs would never enjoy human dignity and freedom,” the report quoted the Panchen Lama as saying. “People living in Tibet should cherish the prosperity and happy lives today, it has not come easy.”
His comments came as Tibetan regions in China remained under tight security during the muted first anniversary of anti-Chinese unrest that Beijing says led to the deaths of 21 people and which it blames on rioters.
According to exile groups, 203 Tibetans were killed — mostly by Chinese troops — during last year’s unrest, which began in Lhasa on March 14 before spreading to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations.
China’s atheist government enthroned Gyaincain Norbu as the Panchen Lama in 1995, rejecting another boy selected by the exiled Dalai Lama in a move that defied long-held Buddhist traditions. The Dalai Lama’s choice, six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, immediately disappeared from public view and is believed to have been under a form of house arrest ever since. The alternate Panchen Lama is rarely seen in public and is believed to be receiving his education in Beijing under close scrutiny from the government.