China prepares for Dalai Lama’s death by looking to its own top Tibetan cleric
The Washington Post – Asia & Pacific – September 26, 2016 (Excerpt)
LHASA, China — In the contest for Tibetan hearts and minds, a 26-year-old Buddhist monk is emerging into the spotlight. He is the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama, and he is being groomed by the Communist Party to fill an important political and religious role in Tibet.
Obedient to the party and loyal to the Chinese state, the “Chinese Panchen” is being pushed forward as an alternative to the Dalai Lama, a man widely loved by Tibetans as their supreme religious leader but reviled by the Chinese Communist Party as a “wolf in monk’s clothing” trying to split Tibet from the motherland.
Experts are skeptical about whether ordinary Tibetans will accept this young man’s credentials: His status as the true reincarnation of the Panchen Lama — Tibetan Buddhism’s second-most-important living religious figure — is the subject of bitter controversy.
Yet there is no doubt that, with the Dalai Lama now 81, the contest for Tibet is entering a new phase, and decades of Communist Party preparation for the older monk’s eventual demise are gathering pace.
Officially at least, the Panchen Lama will become the most important religious figure in Tibet when the Dalai Lama dies — that is, until the older monk’s reincarnation is found. And he will also play a key role in the Chinese government’s efforts to install a new Dalai Lama who is more amenable to Communist Party rule than the current one. Read more…