Thursday, August 04, 2005

China Denies Detaining Panchen Lama

LHASA, Tibet 4 August 2005, (AFX) -- China denied that a boy picked by the Dalai Lama as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism and missing since 1995 was under detention, but refused to reveal his whereabouts.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has not been seen since he disappeared as a six-year-old, reportedly put under house arrest by China. A senior Chinese official said the boy and his family were living a normal life, but would not say where.

"We didn't detain him," Wu Yingjie, vice chairman of the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told reporters.

"He is living happily in his home town. The child is just a normal Chinese child. The so-called soul boy recognised by the Dalai Lama is not recognised by the Chinese government," he added, reiterating the Chinese government's earlier rhetoric.

The boy was chosen in 1995 according to ancient tradition by the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibet's top spiritual leader, as the reincarnation of the former Panchen Lama who died in 1989.

The Panchen Lama, considered a living god, is of great importance in Tibetan Buddhism -- and in Chinese-Tibetan relations -- because he is charged with leading the search for a reincarnated Dalai Lama.

China accuses the exiled Dalai Lama of being a 'splittist' over his original demand for independence for his homeland, which he fled in 1959 after an uprising against China's 1950 occupation.

Wu said the Dalai Lama was to blame for Tibet's lack of economic progress.'

"Because of the damage of the Dalai Lama's group, some turbulence occurred, causing a situation where the Tibet Autonomous Region missed the chance to narrow the differences between Tibet and the eastern part of the country," he said.