Dalai Lama calls for more research into 20-year disappearance of Panchen Lama

Mon Sep 14, 2015 3:00pm EDT
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By Angus Berwick

OXFORD, England (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama said on Monday more research was needed to settle the fate of the man he named as the Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, who vanished two decades ago but is said by the Chinese to be living a normal life.

Gendun Choekyi Nyima, now 26, disappeared shortly after he was declared by the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet to be the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama when he was six years old.

His fate, which is just one area of contention between China and the Dalai Lama over Tibet, continues to be a deep concern to many Tibetans and he remains one of China's most zealously guarded state secrets.

A senior Chinese official said earlier this month Gendun Choekyi Nyima was "being educated, growing up healthily and does not want to be disturbed".

The Chinese Communist Party has long maintained that Gendun Choekyi Nyima is not the real Panchen Lama, and in 1995, the government selected Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama.

The Chinese government sees the appointment of the next Dalai Lama as key to consolidating state control over Tibet, where separatist movements have flared since the 1950s, and to undermining the present Dalai Lama's influence.

"I think the Chinese government is more concerned with the Dalai Lama institution than myself," the Dalai Lama said on Monday at a news conference at Oxford University.

The Dalai Lama acknowledged reports on Gendun Choekyi Nyima, but said evidence was needed to make them credible.   Continued...

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama speaks during a news conference at Magdalene College in Oxford, Britain September 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Darren Staples