March 17, 2008 / 12:15 PM / 9 years ago

Daughter of Tibet's late Panchen Lama urges unity

BEIJING (Reuters) - The daughter of Tibet's late 10th Panchen Lama on Monday invoked her father in calling for ethnic unity in the wake of monk-led, pro-independence protests in her Himalayan homeland which turned ugly and left dozens dead.

Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo is the only child of the late 10th Panchen Lama, the most senior religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising.

"I have closely followed recent events in Tibet and my heart is heavy," Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo told Reuters by telephone when asked to comment on the rioting.

"I remember my father always said all nationalities should be united, our world should be stable," said the U.S.-educated princess who is currently pursuing a doctorate in finance at Beijing's elite Tsinghua University.

"We all hope for harmony," she said, echoing President Hu Jintao's campaign to build a "harmonious society" in the face of rising social unrest. She declined further comment.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama and China's atheist Communist rulers chose rival reincarnations of the 10th Panchen Lama who died in 1989. The 6-year-old boy anointed by the Dalai Lama swiftly disappeared from public view, leading human rights groups to dub him the world's youngest political prisoner.

After the Dalai Lama fled, the 10th Panchen Lama stayed on and was initially seen as a collaborator, but it emerged in the 1990s that he spent more than a decade either in prison or under house arrest for attacking Beijing in a 1962 petition over mass jailings, starvation and efforts to wipe out Buddhism in his homeland.

Chairman Mao Zedong dismissed his 70,000-word petition as a "poisoned arrow shot at the (Communist) Party by reactionary feudal overlords".

The 10th Panchen Lama was freed in 1977, a year after Mao's death, and politically rehabilitated the following year.

He is revered by many Tibetans and launched the first Tibetan charity dedicated to helping his people and a company which served as an economic model to generate income via traditional arts.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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