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Panchen Politics: Can Beijing win Tibetan hearts?

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"Everything we do, we do to ensure that the people live a happier life with more dignity and to make our society fairer and more harmonious."

-- Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in his annual speech on March 4 at the opening of National People's Congress in Beijing.

A few days before, Wen's government had appointed the 20-year-old Gyaltsen Norbu, the Beijing-anointed Panchen Lama, as one of the 13 new members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top advisory body to China's parliament. After becoming a CPPCC member, Norbu expressed a higher responsibility in his "mission of safeguarding national unity and ethnic solidarity"[Xinhua, March 5]. Norbu's ascendance to CPPCC membership although viewed by some analysts as his coming-out-party on the much-politicized ethnic scene in the PRC, it is also a routine move symbolizing the "preferential treatment" of Tibetan minorities in the policy-making process of the one party state. Since 1950s, China has attempted to cultivate a support base of highly influential Tibetan spiritual leaders who are "loyal and patriotic" to the party.

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Tsering Tsomo is a Tibetan journalist based in New Delhi, India. She writes for exile Tibetan publications and other online media.
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