The young man named by China as the 11th Panchen Lama – but who's regarded among exiled Tibetans as a fake – has made his first visit outside of the mainland.
In a rare appearance, 22-year-old Gyaltsen Norbu addressed thousands at the 3rd World Buddhist Forum in Hong Kong. He has round-the-clock security because of fear of humiliation by Tibetans. All because officials in Beijing have anointed Norbu as next most powerful Tibetan Buddhist after the exiled Dalai Lama, in what's widely seen as an attempt by Beijing to win acceptance of its rule over Tibet.
Bizarre when you remember that China is a mainly atheist country, and many Tibetans in parts of the country have been setting fire to themselves (self-immolation) in protest at their harsh repression over their rights and culture in China.
Panchen Lama's appearance shows that the battle lines remain very clearly drawn. The Chinese appear to be grooming the 11th Panchen Lama to take over from the Dalai Lama, but there are several factors which throw doubt on whether Tibetans will be swayed at all. Namely that there've been over 30 self-immolations in the last year and that many still remember the mysterious disappearance of the boy who was the Dalai Lama's own choice of successor after he was rejected by China.