WASHINGTON, Aug. 8�The rarely-seen, Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama has been sighted at a monastery in the traditional Amdo region (Qinghai Province) in China, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.
�Security was very tight,� an eyewitness who spoke on condition of anonymity told RFA�s Tibetan service. �There were hundreds, maybe thousands of security and troops surrounding the area.�
The eyewitness also said the monks at Kumbum Monastery, located in the mountains southwest of Xining City, were ordered by local authorities to attend the reception of the Panchen Lama and to receive his blessings�otherwise face punishment. However, of the approximately 800 monks living in the monastery, only about 200 came to the reception. Some speculate the reason is that they believe there is only one Panchen Lama�the one picked by the Dalai Lama and who vanished in 1995.
The Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, is rarely seen in public and is closely guarded by the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama-appointed Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has been under house arrest since he was six years old in 1995, recently was reported by the Chinese foreign ministry to be leading a �happy, normal� life in China.
The appointment of the Panchen Lama is of great significance to Tibetan Buddhists because he typically leads the search for the reincarnated Dalai Lama.