China appoints Panchen Lama in tactical move to quell unrest

Young monk will take increasingly political role in country's highest legal body

The red stars and bunting are in place for China's annual parliament, the National People's Congress, which starts in Beijing's Great Hall of the People tomorrow and had been shaping up to be a rubberstamp talking shop focused mainly on the economy.

However, the event has taken on a broader political significance since Beijing named the Panchen Lama, the young man controversially enthroned by Beijing as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, as a delegate to the country's top legislative advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The publication of a report by a top government expert critical of Beijing's handling of growing unrest has also added to the feeling that this year's NPC might include a surprise or, at least, indications of growing tensions.

The 20-year-old Panchen Lama, whose name is Gyaltsen Norbu, has long been earmarked as Beijing's choice to usurp the Dalai Lama as the public face of Tibetan Buddhism. He has taken an increasingly political role and was in the frame a couple of years ago to be a delegate to the CPPCC but was thought to be too young. The Panchen Lama was among 13 people named on Sunday to the CPPCC, made up of about 2,200 business leaders, religious figures, academics and celebrities. The young monk has appeared with Communist Party leaders, publicly praised Chinese rule in Tibet, and vowed to contribute to "the blueprint of the compatible development of Tibetan Buddhism and socialism".

Last month he was voted vice-president of the nation's Buddhist Association, and the Xinhua news agency reported how he promised to "uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China" and "adhere to socialism, safeguard national unification, strengthen ethnic unity and expand Buddhist exchanges".

Comments like these have made the Panchen Lama a controversial figure, not widely accepted by Tibetans. Another boy, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, was named as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1995. The boy and his family disappeared soon after and have not been heard from since, and are believed to be under house arrest in Beijing.

China says that Tibet is, was and always has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans dispute this. Chinese troops occupied Tibet following the 1949 communist revolution, sending the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile in India in 1959 after a failed coup against Chinese rule.

The Communist government in Beijing considers the Dalai Lama to be a dangerous separatist. The Dalai Lama says he merely seeks greater autonomy.

The NPC comes two years after demonstrations against Chinese rule across parts of the Tibetan autonomous region and in neighbouring provinces. Violent protests in March 2008 in the Tibetan capital Lhasa against Han Chinese settlers, left 22 dead, according to the government. Tibetan rights groups say the figure was far higher. Officials blamed protest activity across the plateau on separatists loyal to the Dalai Lama.

China has about 100 million Buddhists and around 16,000 temples. Buddhism is seen as less of a threat than other religions as it is not centrally organised and has its roots in Chinese culture.

Delegates were arriving at the airport and train stations for the event, many of them wearing national dress or military uniform. Nearly three quarters of the delegates of the NPC, China's ceremonial legislature, are members of the ruling Communist Party, with the remainder coming from the military or other branches of government. All delegates are approved by the ruling powers.

This year the NPC was expected to be a dry affair, with the focus on China's economy in the face of challenges from rising property prices and inflation. Proposals are usually greeted by lengthy applause and normally receive unanimous approval. While there have been one or two surprises, any deviations from the Party line happen behind closed doors.

However, on this occasion the NPC could throw up some surprises. China-watchers have been closely reading the text of a recent speech by Dr Yu Jianrong, China's top expert on social unrest, which appears to warn that hardline security policies are taking the country to the brink of "fundamental revolutionary turmoil" because the Communist Party's was obsessed with holding on to its power monopoly.

The security forces will also carry out their annual crackdown on all forms of dissent, with particular attention being paid to the petitioners who come to the capital to air their grievances. Fearful of unrest, for a number of years anyone with a petition for the government has been kept far from Tiananmen Square, where the NPC takes place.

"The NPC is a big public show," said Cheng Li, a China-watcher at the Brookings Institution, the Washington think-tank.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + ents
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape