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A six-year-old boy chosen as Tibet's spiritual leader by China - against the wishes of the Dalai Lama - has been initiated as a monk in a ritual in a 15th-century Tibetan monastery, official media said.

The ceremony, attended by hundreds of chanting monks, marked another step in Peking's efforts to legitimise the boy's position as the 11th Panchen Lama, the highest Buddhist leader inside Tibet, and strengthen its rule of the remote Himalayan region. China enthroned the child last December, snubbing the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and temporal leader who had chosen another six-year-old as Panchen Lama.

The Dalai Lama's choice disappeared shortly after he was picked in May 1995. Last week, Peking admitted to holding the boy, saying they were protecting him from kidnap by Tibetan separatists. AP - Peking