Peking set to foist its lama on Tibet

Chinese authorities plan to enthrone a six-year-old boy tomorrow as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, one of Tibet's highest spiritual leaders, in a move that is likely to intensify Tibetan anger against Peking's rule, according to Tibetan exile sources in India.

By placing their young candidate, Gyaltsen Norbu, on the Panchen Lama's throne in the town of Shigatse, the Chinese will break an ancient mystical tradition and violate the Buddhist beliefs held by millions of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual ruler, has already found a young nomad boy believed to be the Panchen Lama reborn.

The Chinese have snubbed the Dalai Lama's choice and intend to install a child whose father is believed to be a Communist Party security officer, charged, ironically, with rooting out Tibetan Communists in Nagchu district suspected of retaining their Buddhist beliefs and nationalistic tendencies.

"Contrary to Chinese media reports of crowds ecstatically greeting the pretender Panchen Lama ... the authorities made every effort to isolate the boy for fear of any outburst of popular anger," according to one official in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in India.

Senior lamas and Tibetan officials have been ordered by the Chinese to attend the ceremony in Shigatse or face punishment. In Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, over 300 monks walked out of a tea ceremony several days ago when they realised it was being offered in honour of the rival Panchen Lama of the Chinese.

The last Panchen Lama died in 1989, after spending 12 years under house arrest by the Chinese. Fears are growing for the safety of the nomad boy chosen by the Dalai Lama. He and his parents were arrested and taken to Peking, where they are being kept under house arrest.