March 22, 2009 / 6:03 AM / 9 years ago

China's Panchen Lama cites Buddha to praise Beijing

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING, March 22 (Reuters) - The Tibetan anointed by Beijing as the region’s second-ranking spiritual leader was quoted by Chinese state media on Sunday as saying the teachings of Buddhism justify the Communist Party’s rule in his remote homeland.

His comments came two weeks after the exiled Dalai Lama said 50 years under Communism had brought "untold suffering" and turned the region he once ruled as spiritual and temporal leader into a "living hell".

Gyaltsen Norbu, recognised by China as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama but spurned by many Tibetans, said the last few decades had brought freedom and prosperity to the people of Tibet, thanks to the "wise" leadership of the Party.

The 19-year-old, writing in an editorial in Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily to be published on Monday, cited a line of Buddhist scripture about good leaders leading to happy people.

"What this means to me is that only with wise leaders will the country be peaceful and the people happy," the Panchen Lama said in the article, carried a day early by the official Xinhua news agency.

"Facts prove that only under the leadership of the Communist Party has there been today’s prosperous development in Tibet, and only under their leadership will there be an even better future."

He said he would continue, as his predecessors did, to uphold the "four great loves" -- of the Communist Party, of socialism, of his own people and of religious belief.

"I will ... spare no effort (to protecting) national unity, the unity of the people and their happiness, and do so for the rest of my life," the Panchen Lama added.

March is the sensitive 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight to India and the first anniversary of deadly riots in Lhasa that sparked waves of protests in Tibetan areas. China brands the Nobel Peace Prize winner a separatist.

This year Beijing has promised stability and sealed off ethnic Tibetan parts of the country to all foreigners, while launching a campaign to celebrate achievements it says include economic progress and the abolition of serfdom.

Many Tibetans outside China dispute these achievements, saying they were launching their own reforms and Beijing’s depiction of traditional society is a distorted caricature.

But the Panchen Lama said that as a descendent of serfs he was "extremely moved" by the campaign to celebrate the abolition of serfdom, which he said had bought a sea change to the lives of ordinary Tibetans.

"Facts speak louder than words. Only with the Communist Party did the serfs of old find dignity and freedom," he said.

China has poured billions of dollars into modernising Tibet but a dispute over the Panchen Lama’s position has left a void that could foster conflict and violence after the death of the Dalai Lama, now 73.

Another 5-year-old boy was chosen by the Dalai Lama as successor to the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995, but he has disappeared from public view since his selection became known.

China’s critics call him the world’s youngest political prisoner. Beijing says he does not want publicity and has a normal life with his family.

(Editing by Dean Yates)

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