On November 4th, 2023, the China-appointed Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu, known widely as the “Fake Panchen” presided over an ordination ceremony at Tashilunbu Temple in Shigatse, Tibet. The ceremony, which was widely publicized by state-controlled media outlets, was portrayed as an example of the Chinese government's commitment to religious freedom in Tibet.
However, the ceremony should be viewed against the backdrop of the Chinese government's ongoing crackdown on religious activities in Tibet. In recent years, there have been numerous reports of Tibetan monks and nuns being arrested, detained, and even tortured for their religious beliefs.
Gyaltsen Norbu’s appointment as the 11th Panchen Lama by China since 1995 is to exert control over the selection process of high-ranking Tibetan religious figures and to undermine the influence of the Dalai Lama. Since his appointment, China has made efforts to gain recognition and acceptance from the Tibetan people whose efforts have largely failed as the Tibetan see the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama as lacking legitimacy.
The Chinese government's tight control over religious activities in Tibet is evident in the fact that the ordination ceremony was held under the close supervision of state officials. The monks who were ordained were required to meet certain political criteria, such as having a "firm 'three consciousnesses'" and being a "four good monk."
Gyaltsen Norbu’s speech at the ceremony, in which he urged the monks to "listen to the Party's words" and "follow the Party," further highlights the Chinese government's attempt to control religious discourse in Tibet.
The 11th Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima was recognized as the reincarnation of his predecessor by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995. Days later, the Dalai Lama endorsed candidate was abducted by China from his home and have never been seen since.
Gendun Choekyi Nyima is considered the true reincarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama as opposed to the Chinese appointed Gyaltsen Norbu who currently holds the mandate of only the Chinese Communist Party, of which he is a member.
The article from Tibet.cn also fails to mention that the China appointed Panchen Lama, who presided over the ordination ceremony, is a Chinese government appointee. The Panchen Lama is not a religious leader, but a political figure who is used by the Chinese government to control Tibet.
The article emphasized Gyaltsen Norbu's authority and his close ties to the Chinese government. The Panchen Lama is a state-appointed religious leader, and his approval is required for all ordinations in Tibet. The article's emphasis on his role in the ceremony suggests that the Chinese government is using the Panchen Lama to legitimize its control over Tibetan Buddhism.
While the Chinese government may portray the Panchen Lama's ordination ceremony as a sign of religious freedom, the reality is that it is a carefully orchestrated event that serves to reinforce the government's control over Tibetan Buddhism. The ceremony should not be seen as an indication of the Chinese government's respect for religious freedom in Tibet, but rather as an example of its ongoing efforts to suppress Tibetan religious identity.
.Edited and collated by Team TRC