China's Panchen Gyalsten Norbu /Xinhua file
Dharamsala, February 4 – The handpicked “11th Panchen Lama Gaincain Norbu” has been “elected” as one of the 25 vice presidents of the Buddhist Association of China on Wednesday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the eighth national conference of the Buddhist Association of China in Beijing, the 19 year-old appointed by China to replace the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama said he would “uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), adhere to socialism, safeguard national unification, strengthen ethnic unity and improve Buddhist exchanges, on the basis of adherence to the law and love for the nation and Buddhism.”
The Buddhist Association of China also “elected” three honorary presidents, Pagbalha Geleg Namgyae, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Ben Huan, a 103-year-old “renowned master”, and Yi Cheng, former president of the national association.
Gendhun Choekyi Nyima's photo taken in 1995, when he was six years old, remains the only clue available of him outside China. (File photo)
Panchen Lama is revered as the second highest tulku lineage in the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Tibet.
Born on April 25, 1989, in Lhari County, Tibet, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama on 14 May 1995 at the age of six. Three days later, on 17 May, he along with his parents went missing.
On 15 May, 1996, the Chinese government admitted to holding the 11th Panchen Lama Gendhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents in their “protective custody”.
Tibetan exiles claim he and his family were abducted by China which installed Gaincain Norbu in his place and refer to Gendhun Choekyi Nyima as the “youngest Political prisoner in the world”.
Traditionally, the Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa, a practice many say has prompted China to install its own Panchen Lama.