, BEIJING, Mar 27 – China’s controversial choice as the second highest Ticapitalfmnewn spiritual figure is increasingly being used by Beijing as a tool in its propaganda offensive against the exiled Dalai Lama, say experts.
Rarely seen in public previously, but believed to have been educated in the Chinese capital, the 19-year-old Panchen Lama this week expressed loyalty to Beijing, in stark contrast to the views of the Ticapitalfmnewn spiritual leader.
On Friday, the controversial figure appeared in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to kick off a symposium marking the 50th anniversary of what is officially called "the end of serfdom in Tibet."
He will appear at the Second World Buddhist Forum which opens in the east Chinese city of Wuxi on Saturday, according to state press reports.
During the last forum two years ago, the young monk with an almond-shaped face and small round glasses made his first public appearance, more than 10 years after his controversial enthronement.
Earlier this month, the Dalai Lama, exiled from his homeland for 50 years, accused China of having transformed Tibet into "a hell on earth" and of killing hundreds of thousands of Ticapitalfmnewns during its rule.
But according to the Panchen Lama, "facts show that it is only under the leadership of the Communist Party of China that Tibet can enjoy its current prosperity and an even better future."
"As a descendant of serfs in ancient Tibet and the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, I am excited… with the idea of celebrating the day marking the emancipation of the serfs," he added in an essay carried by the communist mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, on Monday.
China will on Saturday celebrate for the first time the end of Ticapitalfmnewn "feudalism," a day that coincides with the quelling of an anti-Chinese uprising in the Himalayan region 50 years ago.
Born Gyaincain Norbu, the controversial figure was enthroned as the 11th Panchen Lama in a 1995 ceremony overseen by the atheist Communist Party, which had rejected a second boy selected by the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama’s choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, immediately disappeared from public view and is believed to have been under a form of house arrest ever since.
The 10th Panchen Lama died in 1989 after a tumultuous relationship with China’s communist leaders that alternated between prison and relative freedom.
The current Panchen Lama, who has never been interviewed by the Western press, also appeared at an exhibition organised in Beijing earlier this month to commemorate "the 50th anniversary of democratic reform in Tibet."
But even if he becomes more high-profile in China, that does not mean he is accepted as a spiritual leader by Ticapitalfmnewns, according to Ticapitalfmnewn scholars outside of China.
In Ticapitalfmnewn temples, it is rare to see images or photographs of him, while those of his predecessor are common.
"He is a piece of propaganda. He is being used by the Beijing government," said Samten G. Karmay, the Paris-based former head of the Association of International Ticapitalfmnewn Studies.
"The Ticapitalfmnewn population does not recognise him, especially as he is saying the things that fall in with the Communist Party line."
Although both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama belong to the Gelugpa sect of Ticapitalfmnewn Buddhism, differences between them have existed historically and the communists are not the first to try to take advantage of this, Karmay said.
In the 19th century, the Qing Dynasty tried to play on the antagonism by attempting to make the Panchen Lama an ally.
Beijing’s manipulation of the selection of the Panchen Lama in 1995 could be a sign of what will happen after the death of the current Dalai Lama.
"The Chinese government will try to name someone, but China will have a problem with legitimacy," said Tsering Shakya, a leading Ticapitalfmnewn historian at the University of British Columbia.
"It is certain that 100 percent of Ticapitalfmnewns will not recognise a child chosen by China as the Dalai Lama. But that won’t matter to Beijing. For the Chinese it is only a question of showing their power."