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China, Tibet, and The Dalai Lama

4 Min
China, Tibet, and The Dalai Lama

Tenzing Dhamdul*

In the run up to the celebration of the 14th Dalai Lama’s 88th birthday on July 6, 2023, China stacked up incongruous acts to prevent Tibetans from their basic means of self-expression. And three incidents showcased its desperation. These are upping the ante of ‘selected’ Panchen Lama, attack in Paris on a Tibetan by radicalized Chinese youth, and WeChat ban on Dalai Lama’s image as profile picture.

Get Blessed – Be Paid

Upping the ante of their own selected Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese authorities have taken things to an absurd level, to say the least.  They have sought to lure the Tibetans to take his blessings.

“Get blessed, be paid 100 yuan” campaign was well orchestrated but failed to click since the Beijing installed Panchen Lama remains unpopular till date. And the Tibetans don’t revere him. For them he is just a Buddhist monk.

For the benefit of the uninitiated in the Chinese ways, it may be pointed out that Gyaltsen Norbu is Beijing’s own choice as the spiritual successor to the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989.  

Tibetans both in exile and at home perceive him as someone foisted by Beijing. And he remains unpopular, while the whereabouts of 11th Panchen Lama recognised by the Dalai Lama in 1995 are officially unknown. The Chinese authorities are known to have taken him and his family into custody within three days of his recognition.

The monetary incentive for receiving blessings is a new low in the Chinese campaign for the Panchen Lama. Beijing’s desperation was on full display during Gyaltsen Norbu’s recent tour of Gyalthang (Shangri-La, in Chinese Xianggelila), Lithang (Litang), Bathang (Batang), Markham (Mangkang) and Dhapa (Daba) County.

He visited the Gyalthang Sumtsen monastery and Lithang monastery, according to a report.  It was his third visit, and “the atmosphere is slightly different from his last visit in 2021,” the report said, adding that only a handful of Tibetans went to see Norbu in Bathang and Lithang. On their part, however, the authorities walked the extra mile to “stage Norbu’s visit in Lithang and Bathang as a very grandiose and popular event.”

It is indeed a pity that Beijing had to pay Tibetans just for the optics of selling Gyaltsen Norbu as the real Panchen Lama in what is no more than controlling and appeasing the majority Tibetans on their own turf even as they are subjected to discrimination in all walks of life.

Rampant discrimination was on display during Lhasa riots last fall.   Han Chinese led the riots.   No Tibetans are allowed to protest and for that matter even raise objections.  

Gonpo Kyi, who is protesting against the unfair sentencing of her brother, Dorjee Tashi, has been subjected to grotesque treatment.  It is another example of how Tibetans are not treated in their own land.

The institution of the Panchen Lama is traditionally vital in the upbringing of the next Dalai Lama. Knowing this Beijing has gone on full throttle to validate their selection of Gyaltsen Norbu, even if it means paying the Tibetans to visit and receive his blessings which are completely against the working of Tibetan traditional Buddhism. This adds another feather to their paradoxical claim of having legitimacy over the succession of the Dalai Lama.

Aggression in Paris

A Tibetan youngster was assaulted during the CSGO Major Finals in Paris on May 21, 2023. The perpetrators of the attack were   a group of radicalized Chinese youth from the mainland. What was the crime of the Tibetan? Well, he was displaying the Tibetan national flag.

The assailants who were brought up on a diet of Chinese Communism, lynched the Tibetan youth, and set on fire his flag. And took to the social media to proudly display their act of vandalism even as gaming final was being streamed live.  As if condoning their thuggery, the Chinese authorities interrupted the ‘live coverage’ just to block out the Tibetan national flag. It goes to show the absurd lengths of censorship under Xi regime.

A FNCA podcast, “Unsilenced: Voices of Young Tibetan”, ( highlighted the trauma of the victim in what has come to be seen as transnational aggression on an unarmed innocent Tibetan youth.

Now about the ‘Dalai ban’

A video clip is doing rounds in the Tibetan community. It is of the Chinese WeChat banning the use of Dalai Lama’s image as a profile picture. It is a known fact that Beijing does not allow display of Dalai Lama portrait in public, and even on the social media.  Defiant Tibetans were arrested and sentenced.

Now the WeChat ban is extended to all Tibetans regardless of their place of stay – whether in the US, Europe or anywhere. No images and portraits of the Dalai Lama as profile pictures, they are told.  And if they fail to fall in-line with the diktat, these pictures stand deleted automatically. “Uploaded PP is deleted within a few seconds,” in further proof of how WeChat is controlled by Beijing, to “disseminate” its own agenda while “dismissing” the narrative of others, the Tibetans including.  

The WeChat ban is yet another manifestation of the China drive against Dalai Lama, which started in 2019 as a push against possession of photos of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in Serthar county in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and other areas of the eastern Tibetan region historically known as Kham.   Even Tibetan teachers and students are not spared from the ban. So are rural families.  

The world must take cognizance of such heinous acts, initiatives and polices flowing from Beijing, all of which center around bringing conflict, chaos and turmoil in the succession of the Dalai Lama, who has turned 88 this July.  

Through his sheer tenacity, the Dalai Lama has not only led Tibetans in preserving their unique culture and tradition but also has become a leader of the world sharing the message of compassion, love and oneness.  It is, no surprise, that Beijing is going as far as funding the Westerners, whom, they despise, to slander His Holiness, and traumatize Tibetans worldwide. (POREG)

—* The writer is Research Associate, Foundation for Non-violent Alternatives, FNVA


1.Tibet must remain Tibet: Beijing’s propaganda forum on Sinicizing Tibet. –

2. China pays Tibetans to receive blessings from Beijing-backed Panchen Lama. –

3. Unsilenced Voices of Young Tibetans with Tenzin Tsangpa –

4. China launches new drive against Dalai Lama photos in Kardze –