While working on a documentary film, British journalist Hilton was permitted to accompany the Dalai Lama as he sought to identify the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second-highest spiritual authority of Tibet’s ruling Buddhist sect. This excellent and artfully written book tells the complicated recent history of the Panchen Lama.
When it comes to investigating the current Panchen Lama controversy, this book is a must-read.
According to a centuries-old agreement, the Panchen Lama bears an important part of the responsibility for finding, recognizing and educating the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama, in turn, is expected to confirm the final selection of the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation and help to prepare him for his role in Tibet’s deeply religious society.
In November of 1995 the Chinese had officially enthroned a boy named Gyaltsen Norbu, whose parents were members of the Communist Party, as the eleventh Panchen Lama.
Earlier in the same year, on the 14th of May 1995, His Holiness had identified a six-year-old boy by the name of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the eleventh incarnation of the Panchen Lama, but only three days later the boy and his family were taken into Chinese custody.
As to present day, there are no records of the boy, his siblings, or his parents.
Isabel Hilton tells the gripping inside story of how this child became the pawn in a battle between the Chinese regime and Tibet’s exiled religious leader, the Dalai Lama. In revealing the political intrigue that accompanied the race to choose and enthrone the eleventh Panchen Lama, Hilton clarifies a great deal about the nature of Tibetan culture and history and the complexities of Tibet’s relationship with China.
Isabel Nancy Hilton OBE (born 25 November 1949 in Aberdeen) is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster based in London.
She was educated at Edinburgh University where she studied Chinese to post-graduate level. As Secretary of the entirely non-subversive China-Scottish Association, based at her University, Hilton was placed on MI5’s “Christmas Tree” list, which prevented her from employment with the BBC in 1976. By the time the issue had been resolved, Hilton had become a feature writer for the Daily Express.
Having been the Latin American affairs editor at the Sunday Times, she chose not to move to Wapping with her paper and joined The Independent in 1986 and filled the same role there. Hilton joined The Guardian in 1997, where she has contributed a regular column.
Hilton presented the The World Tonight 1995–98 on BBC Radio 4 and from 1999 has presented Nightwaves on BBC Radio 3. Concurrently from March 2005 to July 2007 she was editor and then editor-in-chief of the openDemocracy.net website and is now the editor of Chinadialogue.
Isabel Hilton is married to Neal Ascherson, with whom she has a son and daughter.
Hilton was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.