What the China-installed “Panchen Lama” is telling Tibetans

International Campaign for Tibet

From the Desk of the President of the International Campaign for Tibet

Recent reports out of Tibet have detailed the activities of Gyaltsen Norbu, the man China’s government appointed as a false “Panchen Lama.” If you’re not familiar with the structure of Tibetan Buddhism, it’s complex, but suffice to say the Panchen Lama is one of the most significant figures in our religion. Traditionally, he has played a role in the process of identifying the next Dalai Lama, and vice versa.

The very fact that China abducted the Panchen Lama selected by the Dalai Lama, and replaced him with their own selected “Panchen Lama” is a gross insult of Tibetan Buddhism. But now the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken this another step further, using their selected official to broadcast the CCP’s message calling for “Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to socialist society.” He’s been turned into a puppet trying to encourage Tibetan Buddhists to endorse Xi Jinping and reject His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

With China’s recent issuing of Order 19, the government is taking the next step in its effort to Sinify Tibetan Buddhism—and their attempts to use the false Panchen Lama to spread adherence to Xi Jinping are all part of their plan. 

The idea that the position of a Tibetan Buddhist leader is being used to advocate for this perversion of our religion is impermissible. How can our beliefs of compassion and non-violence align with a government that routinely imprisons and tortures us? How could we reject the central figure of our religion who is an inspiration to millions around the world?

While China tries to push their false Panchen Lama on the world, Tibetans themselves overwhelmingly reject Gyaltsen Norbu. The real Panchen Lama was identified by the Dalai Lama and others in 1995, as a boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. The Chinese government abducted him days later and neither he nor his family have been heard from since. We hold out hope that they are still alive and well.

The atheist CCP has no authority to appoint a “Panchen Lama.” Gyaltsen Norbu is not a Tibetan spiritual leader, but is being used as a mouthpiece of China’s operation to spread falsehoods about Tibet and its people. China’s strategy is to turn the world against a peaceful, non-violent, and just cause, spreading misinformation and inventing lies about our culture and conditions in Tibet. They are even trying to claim that the forced reeducation of 1 million Tibetan youths is a fabrication by the West.

We will continue to stand against China’s attempt to eradicate everything that makes Tibetans unique through the Sinification of Tibetan Buddhism and CCP-installed figures like the false “Panchen Lama”.


Tencho Gyatso

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