Beijing's Panchen Lama urges Tibetans to "cherish prosperity"

Panchen LamaBeijing  - China's state-appointed Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Panchen Lama, on Sunday urged Tibetans to "cherish the prosperity" and "bright future" offered by the ruling Communist Party.

"People living in Tibet should cherish their prosperity and happy lives today," the government's official Xinhua news agency quoted the Panchen Lama, 19-year-old Gyaincain Norbu, as saying.

While touring a government exhibition in Beijing to mark the "50th Anniversary of Democratic Reforms in Tibet," he promised to guide Tibetan Buddhists to "adapt to the country's socialist society."

He said Tibetans in China could only "achieve progress and have a bright future" under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the agency reported.

His remarks follow Saturday's anniversary of last year's anti-Chinese rioting in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Troops in full battle dress reportedly patrolled largely deserted streets in the city centre on Saturday as the anniversary was marked largely with silence amid the heavy security.

The semi-official China News Service showed a photograph of two schoolchildren walking past a dozen soldiers in combat gear in the deserted Barkhor market street in the centre of Lhasa.

The official government website www. tibet. cn also showed photographs of deserted shopping streets in central Lhasa.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Japan's Kyodo news agency reported an "intimidating" atmosphere in Lhasa on Saturday.

"Paramilitary police armed with rifles and shields were stationed at every junction while trucks carrying police in full riot gear could be seen at regular intervals on major arteries," the newspaper said.

Convoys of up to 20 armoured vehicles "drove slowly down main streets, with marksmen on the vehicles covering both sides of the street," it said.

The Tibetan government-in-exile and Tibetan rights groups based in India reported at least one small protest in another Tibetan area of China on Saturday, and several more in the run-up to Tuesday's 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

China's 11th Panchen Lama was chosen in 1995 by state-sponsored Tibetan Buddhist leaders.

A rival 11th Panchen Lama, chosen and recognized by supporters of the exiled Dalai Lama, has reportedly been held under virtual house arrest in China since he was six years old.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's highest leader, fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against the occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops since 1951.

The reincarnate Panchen Lama is often considered second in importance to the Dalai Lama by Tibetan Buddhists. dpa