Panchen Lama VP of state Buddhism body

BEIJING: China’s controversial choice as the second highest Tibetan spiritual figure, the 19-year-old Panchen Lama, was voted vice president of the nation’s Buddhist Association today, state media reported.

The appointment comes just days after negotiations on the future of Tibet between Chinese Communist party officials and envoys of the region’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, which failed to make any headway. The Panchen Lama, addressing the closing ceremony of the association’s national conference, said he would

“uphold the leadership of

the Communist Party of

China,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

He added he would “adhere to socialism, safeguard national unification, strengthen ethnic unity and expand Buddhist exchanges, on the basis of adherence to the law and love for the nation and Buddhism,” the report said.

The Buddhist Association of China is the state-run supervisory body for the religion.

Gyaincain Norbu was enthroned as the 11th Panchen Lama in a 1995 ceremony overseen by the Communist Party, which had rejected a boy selected by the Dalai Lama. The exiled spiritual leader’s choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has disappeared from public view and is believed to have been under a form of house arrest ever since.

Experts say the Panchen Lama is being used by Beijing as a tool in its propaganda offensive against the Dalai Lama.