Tibet's 11th "Panchen Lama," anointed by China's atheist Communists but not by the Tibet's Dalai Lama, took center stage at the World Buddhist Forum yesterday, defending China's record on religion.
Chinese leaders opened the forum in the eastern city of Hangzhou with a pledge to respect religious freedom and sought to ease fears the rise of the world's most populous nation would be a threat to the world.
Gyaltsen Norbu, appointed in 1995 as the Himalayan region's second most important religious figure after Beijing rejected the Dalai Lama's nominee, shared the stage at an auditorium with eight Buddhist leaders from South Korea, Taiwan and Sri Lanka, taking the middle seat.
Norbu is believed to live in Beijing amid intense secrecy and is almost never seen in public.
The tall, thin teenager delivered a 10-minute speech in Tibetan, which was interrupted twice by applause from more than 1,000 delegates from 34 countries. The speech, according to an official translation, dwelt on Buddhism's responsibility to foster patriotism and national unity.
``Defending the nation and working for the people is a solemn commitment Buddhism has made to the nation and society,'' Norbu said.
He praised his predecessor, who was imprisoned for years after openly criticizing Beijing's politics in Tibet, for having made "outstanding contributions to the unity of the country and the solidarity of the people."
It was believed to be the first time Norbu had taken part in an international religious gathering, an apparent sign that Beijing is seeking greater acceptance of its choice of Panchen Lama.
The Dalai Lama's nominee is believed to have been under house arrest since 1995, when he was six years old. International human rights watchdogs call him the world's youngest political prisoner.
Many Tibetans dismiss China's choice as a sham.
Gyaltsen Norbu made his debut on the world stage on Wednesday, sitting alongside about 50 Buddhist leaders during an audience at a hotel with Jia Qinglin (
Two other top lamas of Tibetan Buddhism were conspicuously absent from the forum.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled his homeland after an abortive uprising. A 23-year-old backed by the Dalai Lama as the Karmapa Lama, ranked third, fled to India in 1999.
Liu Yandong (劉延東), number two in the top advisory body to parliament and the most senior Chinese at the forum, sought to play down fears China's rise would be a threat to the world.
"Internal harmony will definitely lead to external peace," he said, days before a summit between Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and US President George W. Bush in Washington.
"A peacefully developing China looks forward to a peacefully co-existing world," he said.
Xi Jinping (習近平), party chief of Zhejiang Province, who lobbied to host the forum, pledged to respect religious freedom.
"We will, as always, comprehensively carry out policies on freedom of religious worship and support religion to make due contributions to promote a harmonious society."
A photo exhibition is being held at the forum venue, but there were no pictures of either the Dalai Lama or from the chaotic 1966 to 1976 Cultural Revolution when monasteries were closed, statues smashed and religious texts burned.
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US,
‘SMOKESCREEN’: An agreement to declare an end to the Korean War would be ‘of no help at all’ and used to cover up ‘US hostile policy,’ a North Korean official said The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday said it was “admirable” of South Korea to propose a formal end to the Korean War, but demanded Seoul first drop its “hostile policies” towards Pyongyang. Kim Yo-jong’s remarks, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, were in response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s recent calls for declaring an official end to the 1950-1953 conflict that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war for more than half a century. In a speech at the UN General Assembly earlier this week, Moon proposed
A potential lurch to the left in Germany’s election on Sunday is scaring millionaires into moving assets into Switzerland, bankers and tax lawyers say. If the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), hard-left Linke and environmentalist Greens come to power, the reintroduction of a wealth tax and a tightening of inheritance tax could be on the political agenda. “For the super-rich, this is red hot,” said a German-based tax lawyer with extensive Swiss operations. “Entrepreneurial families are highly alarmed.” The move shows how many rich people still see Switzerland as an attractive place to park wealth, despite its efforts to abolish its image as a
Some health experts in Singapore are calling for mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 with a growing toll of severe cases among unvaccinated people as infections surge and with the vaccination rate plateauing at 82 percent. The government has linked reopening to vaccination targets, but it paused the easing of restrictions this month to watch for signs that severe infections could overwhelm the healthcare system. “I would love to see vaccine mandates for the over-60s — they are the group most likely to die,” said Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert at National University Hospital in Singapore. “It’s the same reason that the age group