China's Panchen Lama Makes Rare Appearance in Beijing

The boy chosen by China as Tibetan Buddhism's second-most influential figure has met with China's top legislator in a rare public appearance.

China's official Xinhua news agency says Gyaltsen Norbu expressed support for the Communist Party when he met with Wu Bangguo Thursday in Beijing. He said he would work to make his religious work adapt to China's socialist society.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama chose six-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama. Soon afterwards, however, the boy and his parents were taken into custody by Chinese authorities, and have not been heard from since.

Months later, China named Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama. He was sent to study at Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse - the traditional seat for Tibet's second-most prominent figure.

The International Campaign for Tibet says the Panchen Lama's plight has come to symbolize the crisis facing Tibet's religious culture. It alleges that Beijing has continued to tighten controls over religious practice and scholarship in Tibet - a charge that Beijing's Foreign Ministry denies.