China pays Tibetans to receive blessings from Beijing-backed Panchen Lama

Gyaltsen Norbu was installed by Beijing after taking Tibet’s chosen Panchen Lama into custody
By Sangyal Kunchok for RFA Tibetan
China pays Tibetans to receive blessings from Beijing-backed Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese-backed Panchen Lama, visits the Kham region of China’s Tibetan Autonomous Republic in this undated screenshot from video.
Citizen journalist

The Chinese government is paying Tibetans 100 yuan (about US$14) each to attend visits and receive blessings from the man Beijing has tapped as Tibetan Buddhism’s second-most important spiritual leader behind the Dalai Lama, residents in Tibet told Radio Free Asia.

Gyaltsen Norbu is the Chinese-backed Panchen Lama, and he is touring parts of the region to give his blessings – but many Tibetans consider him to be an imposter.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama are reincarnated as children when they die. After the 1950-51 Chinese invasion and annexation of Tibet, Beijing has made an effort to influence Tibetan affairs including the selection of a spiritual successor to the 10th Panchen Lama who died in 1989.

In 1995, the exiled Dalai Lama chose 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to be the 11th Panchen Lama, recognizing him as the reincarnation of his predecessor.

The Panchen Lama’s responsibilities include leading a council of high lamas to find the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama after the current one dies.

The 1995 recognition of the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama angered Chinese authorities, who three days later took the boy and his family into custody. They have since disappeared.

Beijing then installed another boy, Gyaltsen (in Chinese, Gyaincain) Norbu, as their own candidate in his place.

Unpopular choice

The Panchen Lama installed by Beijing remains unpopular with Tibetans both in exile and at home because he is perceived as someone foisted on them by Beijing.

Beijing is giving out a small monetary incentive for people who receive his blessing, a Tibetan resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“The Chinese government has told the local Tibetans that anyone who attends and receives Gyaltsen Norbu’s blessings will be rewarded with 100 yuan,” the resident said. “The Chinese government has also put in lots of effort to stage Norbu’s visit in Lithang and Bathang as a very grandiose and popular event.”

The resident said that Gyaltsen Norbu recently completed a tour to Gyalthang (Shangri-La, in Chinese Xianggelila), Lithang (Litang), Bathang (Batang), Markham (Mangkang) and Dhapa (Daba) County in Tibet, where he visited the Gyalthang Sumtsen monastery and Lithang monastery.

China’s communist leaders are using Gyaltsen Norbu to push their political agenda, said Namrata Hasija, a Research Fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

“The Chinese government’s effort and attempt in forcing Tibetans into embracing Gyaltsen Norbu has gone futile because other than just a Buddhist monk Tibetans don’t consider and revere him as the Panchen Lama,” she said. 

The visit is the third by the Chinese-backed Panchen Lama and the atmosphere is slightly different from his last visit in 2021, another resident said.

“In July 2021, Tibetans were forced to attend and receive his blessings and there were tight restrictions in those areas where he was,” the second resident said. “Restrictions are not as severe this time compared to his last visit and also there were only a handful of Tibetans who went to see Gyaltsen Norbu in Bathang and Lithang.”

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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Jul 11, 2023 12:09 PM

In order to avoid jail & fines, Tibetans will pretend to revere the fake Panchen or show fake loyalty to the CCP. But in the Tibetan heart, HH the Dalai Lama is the true leader and Tibet will be independent again.