At the Tashilumpo Monastery complex, where golden pagoda rooftops blaze against the burnt umber hillside, a pall of defeat still hung in the crisp air. In April, Gedhun Choeki Nyima, the boy chosen by the Geluk-pa, and acknowledged by the 14th Dali Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama reincarnate, spent his ninth birthday as the youngest political prisoner in the world. He and his parents were being “detained” somewhere in China, it was suspected.
Meanwhile, the Chinese had chosen their own Panchen Lama—a young boy who remained under virtual house arrest at Tashilumpo for fear his public appearance would ignite a political protest. But many Tibetans thought this substitution a karmic irony, likely to backfire on the Chinese. As the story of Moses recounts, a liberator can sometimes emerge from the ranks of the oppressor.